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Silvermont: Intel’s Low Power, High Performance Microarchitecture

Taking another step towards mobile device market, Intel unveiled its latest architecture “Silvermont” on Monday. Silvermont is the new microprocessor architecture having power efficient design which will be the foundation for the upcoming new generation mobile devices.

With this release Intel promises to change everything what we know about Intel Atom. Silvermont is Intel Atom’s next generation microarchitecture based on 22nm process.

Intel has taken a long time to step into the mobile device market. But Atom has considerably evolved since its first release in 2008. Atom processors were introduced as the low voltage chips with better performance. Intel first aimed to the Internet Mobile Devices (IMDs) and netbooks. But netbooks were taken off by ultra thin laptops and IMDs were out dated even before getting focus by the smart phones. Intel’s inability to commercially popularise the Atom became the first step of success ladder for ARM.

silvermont_roadmap

The journey Atom Processor started with the first generation of Atom processors (Diamondville and Silverthorne) which were single-core processors with 45-nanometer CPUs but later on Intel added a dual-core Atom to the Diamondville lineup later in 2008.

Intel never remained quiet after the first release of Atom SOC and kept on improving power efficiency and bringing its successive generation of the processor into the new process technology.

In the press Dadi Perlmutter, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, Intel Corporation said “Silvermont is a leap forward and an entirely new technology foundation for the future that will address a broad range of products and market segments.” He also added that Intel’s mission is to manufacture chips from “teraflops to milliwatt”.

Silvermont: Next Generation Microarchitecture

The Silvermont design includes the Intel’s 3D tri gate transistor technology introduced in 2011, which helps Intel to manufacture smaller, faster processors performing at a lower voltage with lesser power leakage. According to Intel, Silvermont shows improvement of about ~5X lower power consumption over current Atom chips and ~3X more peak performance.

In Silvermont Intel has introduced a new design with “out-of-order execution engine”. This combination helps in performing at top while processing one thread. Intel introduced few new instructions for supporting better power management, virtualization and security management. SOC using Silvermont architecture can enter into sleep mode and wake up very quickly than that of present SOCs.

Silvermont uses a new multi-core with system fabric architecture scalable up to eight cores enabling higher performance for higher bandwidth, lower latency and responsive system.

silvermont_highlights

The best part found by us in Silvermont is that Silvermont can efficiently fuse 3 instructions together and can process them quickly and as efficiently as if processing a single instruction. The efficiency has also been increased in performing calculations and memory management.

Silvermont has enhanced power management capabilities including new intelligent burst technology, low- power C states. Silvermont supports Intel® Burst Technology 2.0 offering high responsiveness for power efficiency.

Silvermont Micro-Architecture Features:

  1. Out-of-Order execution pipeline
  2. Macro operation execution pipeline
  3. Improvement in instruction latencies and throughput
  4. Smart pipeline resource management
  5. Efficient branch processing
  6. Accurate branch predictors
  7. Fast recovery pipeline
  8. Low latency, high bandwidth caches
  9. Out of order memory transaction.
  10. Multiple advanced hardware prefetchers
  11. Balanced core and memory susbsystems.

Power Management Optimization in Silvermont:

  1. Burst frequency can be managed in hardware based on Electrical, Thermal and Power Delivery constraints.
  2. Silvermont supports power sharing between CPU cores and SOC IPs (e.g. Graphics)
  3. Dynamically adjustable burst operating points.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeCJd3CfeNo?feature=player_detailpage]

SOCs featuring Silvermont:

Silvermont architecture will be released with a number of SOC Chips. Some are mentioned below.

  1. Bay Trail: Latest Silvermont based SOC chip from Intel having 2X better performance than existing Intel based SOCs for tablets.
  2. Merrifield: Silvermont based SOC focused on better performance, higher battery life supports ultra-fast connections for Web streaming, and increased data, device and privacy protection.
  3. Avoton: Silvermont based Atom SOC focusing low power devices and micro servers.
  4. Rangeley: Focusing in networking devices such as routers, switches and many security appliances.

Intel will ship out its latest low power ships based on Silvermont architecture after the shipment of its Haswell Chips in 2H 2013.

Intel wants to take full advantage of both the Silvermont and Haswell microarchitectures across all areas of computing.