Intel improving server performance to a "T"

Intel improving server performance to a "T"

Intel provided further details at IDF about new technologies designed to help IT departments manage their networks

Intel is preparing several technologies that will help IT managers secure their networks against external threats and manage increasingly complex combinations of client and server hardware, the company said Tuesday at the Spring Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

As part of its new platform-oriented strategy, Intel will build support for Intel Active Management Technology, Intel I/O Active Management Technology, Intel Virtualization Technology, and LaGrande security technology into upcoming processors and chipsets, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's newly formed Digital Enterprise Group. All of these technologies have been discussed before, but Intel revealed new details about the technologies and the target dates for their release during Gelsinger's afternoon keynote.

A platform is usually an ill-defined term in the technology industry, but Intel's concept of the platform includes a complete system where a processor, chipset, networking connection, and other technologies work together to enhance performance or usability. The company is no longer content with simply improving the raw performance of its processors and is adding features to its products that help users manage or secure their systems. It is calling those features the "Ts," and has already released early components such as hyperthreading (HT) and 64-bit extensions (EM64T).

Intel released the specifications for Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) Tuesday to allow developers to build support for the technology into upcoming products. As its name suggests, Intel AMT improves the manageability of a company's hardware assets by allowing IT managers to upload operating system updates, set up new systems, and diagnose problems over a remote network. The technology exists below the operating system layer of a PC or server, meaning that IT managers can perform these operations even if the user has shut down the operating system, as long as that system remains connected to the network.

Gelsinger demonstrated the benefits of AMT when combined with Intel's Virtualization Technology (VT), another upcoming feature. He simulated the effects of a virus outbreak on two systems, one without AMT and VT, and one with the features.

The system without the technologies was forced to disconnect from the network once the virus appeared on the system, and was offline for an extended period of time while operating system updates were uploaded to that machine. However, a machine with both VT and AMT was able to create a protected virtual operating system that could download the updates and keep the user going with only a slight interruption in connectivity, Gelsinger said.

Intel will introduce AMT and VT in its Lyndon platform for digital office PCs in 2005, Gelsinger said. In 2006, those technologies will also appear in Bensley, Intel's code name for its first dual-core Xeon server platform. Bensley includes the Dempsey dual-core processor announced earlier on Tuesday and a new chipset code-named Blackford.

Another technology in Bensley that will help server performance is Intel I/O Acceleration Technology (I/O AT), which reduces the amount of I/O routing that must be taken on by the processor, Gelsinger said. Some server users and companies have turned to TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) offload engines (TOEs) to lighten the load on the processor, but I/O AT takes that one step further by allocating processing resources from dual-core chips, next-generation chipsets, and network controllers to I/O routing and controlling all that with software, he said.

Microsoft will support all of the forthcoming Intel technologies in the Longhorn versions of the Windows client and server operating systems, due in 2006 and 2007, respectively, said Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsoft's Platform Group. Appearing on stage with Gelsinger, Allchin also said that Microsoft will support Intel's technologies as soon as the chip maker releases them, indicating that Microsoft may add support to its current operating system products through software updates.

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