Intel’s Long Awaited Return to the Memory Business

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Graphics is a focal point of the upcoming Haswell platform, necessitating a high bandwidth memory solution. To deliver high performance Intel is returning to the DRAM market, which it exited in 1985. The memory that ships with Haswell will be a custom embedded DRAM mounted in the package and manufactured on a variant of Intel’s 22nm process. By avoiding the commodity memory market, Intel will preserve high margins by cannibalizing discrete GPUs and dedicated graphics memory.

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Intel’s Haswell CPU Microarchitecture

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Intel’s Haswell CPU is the first core optimized for 22nm and includes a huge number of innovations for developers and users. New instructions for transactional memory, bit-manipulation, full 256-bit integer SIMD and floating point multiply-accumulate are combined in a microarchitecture that essentially doubles computational throughput and cache bandwidth. Most importantly, the microarchitecture was designed for efficiency and extends Intel’s offerings down to 10W tablets, while maintaining leadership for notebooks, desktops, servers and workstations.

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Haswell Transactional Memory Alternatives

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We previously theorized that Intel’s TSX extensions in Haswell use the caches to provide transactional memory semantics. This article describes an alternative approach based on minimal changes to the CPU core, contrasts the advantages of the two techniques and discusses the expected implementation in Haswell.

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Analysis of Haswell’s Transactional Memory

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Intel’s upcoming Haswell microprocessors include transactional memory and hardware lock elision that are exposed through the Transactional Synchronization Extensions or TSX. In this article, I discuss TSX and predict the implementation details of Haswell’s transactional memory and expected adoption across the industry, based on my previous experience.

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