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Intel is sampling Avoton Atom chips ahead of IDF Beijing

Ratching up the fabs ahead of ARM
Mon Apr 08 2013, 14:00
An Intel logo on a piece of equipment

CHIPMAKER Intel has said it has working 22nm Avoton Atom chips it is sampling to customers, with production chips expected to be available in the second half of 2013.

Intel has been forced to push its Atom roadmap faster than its Core and Xeon roadmaps due to the increased competition posed by the ARM chip vendors that are lining up to compete in the server market. Now Intel has revealed some details of Avoton ahead of IDF Beijing, saying that the chip will be fabbed on the firm's 22nm process node and is sampling to customers now.

Intel also confirmed what many already knew, that Avoton will make use of the Silvermont microarchitecture. The firm said Avoton will be its second generation 64-bit SoC and comes almost exactly a year after Centerton Atom chip.

Intel wouldn't disclose specific technical details of Avoton prior to IDF Beijing, however the Avoton represents a big step for the firm as it includes both a change in microarchitecture and process node.

Intel has previously said that its Atom chips will surpass Moore's Law in order to keep up with ARM chips. Lisa Graff, VP and GM of Intel's Datacentre and Connected Systems Group said the firm will have working silicon on show at IDF Beijing and the firm is happy with the silicon it has powered up in its labs.

What Intel didn't talk about is the power consumption of its Avoton Atom chips, however its previous generation Centeron chips had a TDP figure of 6W and given that the firm is moving to what is now a mature process node and a new microarchitecture, one can safely expect the power consumption figures to be lower than the previous generation.

Intel's Avoton Atom chips might not yet be able to compete in outright power consumption figures against ARM chips but Intel can rightly argue that its silicon will be in the hands of server builders months before ARM vendors have something that competes in terms of features.

This highlights the problem for ARM vendors. While many chip vendors including Intel's historic rival AMD will have ARM based chips next year, Intel will already have its second generation 64-bit SoC out for many months, and has already talked about specific versions of Atom for different server deployments such as storage and network infrastructure. And perhaps most worrying is Intel's seeming ability to develop and produce new Atom chips on a 12 month to 18 month cycle, one that some ARM vendors might find hard to cope with.

Intel said that it expects to have final Avoton Atom silicon in the hands of customers in the second half of 2013. µ


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