Technology analysis of the latest gadgets, consoles, and computer architectures.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I have a couple of things I'd like to cover with this post. First of all, I feel it is necessary to cover Intel's latest chip architecture, because I honestly am impressed and glad that Intel has finally decided to port the Pentium M architecture to desktop and server chips. I also have a few things to say about the Net Neutrality debate. I hope I don't spend too much time with these topics because I'd really like to run to Copps and pick up a few things for lunch goods and dinner tonight.

Conroe is essentially an expansion of the Pentium M architecture; it consists of a 14-stage pipeline (the Athlon64 uses 12) with 4 instruction decode units, 3 integer units, and 3 (2 concurrently-operational) 128-bit SSE units (compared to 2 64-bit SSE units in the Athlon64).

Conroe also utilizes prefetching to a greater extent than the Pentium 4 or the Athlon64 but still gives priority to loads. I think the most interesting optimization added to the Core is Memory Disambiguation; in Intel's implementation, a dynamic alias predictor is used to determine if a preceding store will be writing to the same address as the pre-empting load, and since the likelihood of this is reported to be 1-2%, having loads execute out of order allows for a large performance boost. For more detailed information, check out Anandtech's article comparing the two architectures here.

Ultimately, I am just glad to see further advancements in computer architecture and more competition; in fact, it looks like the Athlon64 5000+ should be under $300 in the near future due to the Core 2 Duo. Memory bandwidth constraints has been a limiting factor in microprocessor systems for at least the past 5 years, and the approaches taken by AMD and now Intel allows to better utilization of the resources available. The on-chip memory controller utilized in the Athlon64 and the prefetching, load forwarding and out-of-order execution techniques, and the larger caches present in the Conroe-based processors demonstrate the acknowledgement of better memory utilization in modern microprocessors. It also allows for more efficient use of the hardware, as demonstrated by lower power consumption in both the Intel and AMD CPUs. Ultimately, the Pentium M team chose the right approach by creating a more efficient microprocessor design for power consumption, and likewise for the Athlon team in terms of staying competitive.

AMD has had such a large influence on Intel; competition is great! The Netburst architecture died away and a more natural upgrade to 64-bit was adopted. In addition, NVidia has become a significant force in chipset development; SLI has become incredibly popular and NVidia continues to make an excellent chipset for AMD and Intel systems.

Alright, that ramble lasted a bit longer than I anticipated...

Now, Net Neutrality... I currently view the internet as an equal opportunity and free market. Anyone can create content that can attract lots of attention, or start a unique business that can generate a lot of revenue. It has definately diversified the marketplace, and has allowed people to voice their opinions to the entire world. Video and voice services have become more popular with the emergence of broadband connections to homes, and the transmission line business has expanded to coaxial and wireless. Of course, companies like AT&T would like a cut of the revenue as Internet media transmission expands; they have become obsolete for phone service and cannot effectively compete with IPTV without dedicated bandwidth for their services. According to Ted Stevens, what these transmission companies really want to do is charge a delivery fee to companies, similar to FedEx and UPS, which is bullshit. In addition, any kind of prioritization on the internet would employ a more capitalistic market, changing the internet from a free market to an industry that would require a company to have large amounts of capital to start a business; essentially created a new tv or movie industry.

However, I also believe that Quality of Service may be an important issue in terms of transmission of data over the internet. Video and voice services require a certain amount of bandwidth and a lower amount of latency to stream effectively over the internet. Quality of Service should be a standard incorporated in the Internet, so that voice, video, and gaming packets, for example, receive enough priority in the transmission of bits for proper streaming. Rather than trying to create a market and rely on monetary discrimination, upgrade the service / infrastructure and charge more to companies and/or consumers, if need-be. I would rather see the Internet improve and remain open but potentially pay a little bit more for the connection than run into another instance where alternative methods are seeked to reduce the immediate costs to the consumers but impose "delivery fees" for content and services in the future.

If anybody ends up reading this and has an opinion on Net Neutrality, please express it below, as I would like to have a good discussion concerning it.