Intel's Sandy Bridge revolution engineered in Haifa

The new architecture will enable PCs with Intel inside to compete against tablets.

"It was clear to all of us that the new thing we developed at Haifa was something completely different," said Shlomit Weiss, the architect of Sandy Bridge architect, whose development she oversaw at Intel Israel Ltd. over the past four years. Sandy Bridge is the business card that Intel Corporation (Nasdaq: INTC) is developing for next-generation PCs, which are designed to operate in a market in which consumers are demanding greater computer performance. It is also intended to help Intel and PCs and laptops cope with new challenges from tablets, after over three decades of dominance.

Earlier this month, Intel unveiled the new architecture at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The architecture links the components that form the computer's brain. The unveiling included 29 processors that will rely on the Sandy Bridge architecture: 15 processors for laptops and 14 processors for PCs. The new architecture will be installed in all standard computer products lines (Core i3/i5/i7), and probably in servers as well in the future.

Weiss oversaw one of the most impressive development efforts in the global processor market. She says that the project included a large number of software engineers - more than 1,000 at the peak - more engineers than Intel employed in corresponding projects in past years. Work on the new architecture lasted four years.

Most of the development took place in Haifa. This not only reflects trust and importance that Intel attaches to the capabilities provided by its Israeli development center, but also the range of skills required by the team. Sandy Bridge is far more complex than that which Intel is used to incorporating in a processor, which is why the company calls it a "revolution", rather than "evolution". The important additions include a GPU processor that is integrated within the processor unit itself, and many advanced functions.

This is the second time that the capabilities of Intel's Israeli development center has been at the heart of a strategic development of such a scale. The last time when Intel developed a new architecture for PCs and laptops in Israel was the Duo Core 2 architecture, which was introduced in 2006. Before that, the Israeli development center's importance was seen in the Centrino processor, introduced in 2003, which changed the company's strategic roadmap.

"We always tell ourselves that it's hard to be on top of the mountain, but to stay there is even harder, because the company's level of expectations rise and competition increases," says Intel VP and head of processor development and evaluation Ron Feldman. Competition is internal, from other Intel development centers, especially in the US.

The complexity of the products is due to the transition to production. The new product will have more than one billion transistors, manufactured at a resolution of 32 nanometers (i.e. the thickness of the printed circuit on the processor). Intel says that, technically, the new processors will be tens of percent faster in various ways. The processor has better security performance, including encryption of computer content, as well as a solution for viewing movies with copyright protection.

"The new architecture is a breakthrough that enables Intel to compete in new markets," says Feldman. Sandy Bridge will not be used in the more intensive market of processors for smartphones and mobile computer standards, such as tablets, which will continue to be based on low-energy consumption Atom architecture.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 16, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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