It has been hard to miss the fact that Intel has been vacuuming up a lot of industry talent, which brings with them a lot of experience. Renduchintala, Koduri, Keller, Hook, and Carvill, are just to name a few. This new crew has decided to break Intel out of its shell for the first time in a while, holding the first in a new tradition of Intel Architecture Days. Through the five hours of presentations, Intel lifted the lid on the CPU core roadmaps through 2021, the next generation of integrated graphics, the future of Intel’s graphics business, new chips built on 3D packaging technologies, and even parts of the microarchitecture for the 2019 consumer processors. In other words, it's many of the things we've been missing out on for years. And now that Intel is once again holding these kinds of disclosures, there’s a lot to dig in to.

Contents List

Intel covered a good amount of ground at the Architecture Day, which we’ve split into the following categories:

  1. The CPU Core and Atom Roadmaps, on 10nm
  2. The Sunny Cove Microarchitecture
  3. The Next Generation Gen11 Graphics
  4. Intel Demonstrates Sunny Cove and Gen11 Graphics
  5. Beyond Gen11 Graphics: Announcing the Xe Graphics Brand
  6. 3D Packaging with FOVEROS
  7. Intel’s first Fovoros and first Hybrid x86 CPU: Core plus Atom in 7 W on 10nm
  8. Ice Lake 10nm Xeon
  9. Intel Made Something Really Funny: Q&A with Raja, Jim, and Murthy


The CPU Core Roadmaps

It is common for companies like Intel to ask members of the press what they enjoy about announcements from Intel, Intel’s competitors, or other companies in the industry. One of answers I will never tire of saying is ‘roadmaps’. The roadmap is a simple document but it enables a company to explain part of its future plans in a very easy to understand way. It shows to the press, to customers, and to partners, that the company has a vision beyond the next product and that it expects to deliver at a rough cadence, hopefully with some markers on expected performance additions or improvements. Roadmaps are rarely taken as set in stone either, with most people understanding that they have an element of fuzziness depending on external factors.

To that end, I’ve been requesting Intel to show roadmaps for years. They used to be common place, but ever since Skylake, it has kind of dried up. In recent months Intel has shown rough datacentre roadmaps, with Cascade Lake, Cooper Lake, and Ice Lake and the next few generations. But for the Core family it has been somewhat more difficult. Depending on which analyst you talk to, a good number will point to some of the Skylake derivatives as being holding points while the issues with 10nm have been sorted out. But nonetheless, all we tend to hear about is the faint whisper of a codename potentially, which doesn’t mean much.

So imagine my delight when we get not one roadmap from Intel on CPUs, but two. Intel gave us both the Core architecture roadmap and the Atom architecture roadmap for the next few generations.

For the high performance Core architecture, Intel lists three new codenames over the next three years. To be very clear here, these are the codenames for the individual core microarchitecture, not the chip, which is an important departure from how Intel has previously done things.

Sunny Cove, built on 10nm, will come to market in 2019 and offer increased single-threaded performance, new instructions, and ‘improved scalability’. Intel went into more detail about the Sunny Cove microarchitecture, which is in the next part of this article. To avoid doubt, Sunny Cove will have AVX-512. We believe that these cores, when paired with Gen11 graphics, will be called Ice Lake.

Willow Cove looks like it will be a 2020 core design, most likely also on 10nm. Intel lists the highlights here as a cache redesign (which might mean L1/L2 adjustments), new transistor optimizations (manufacturing based), and additional security features, likely referring to further enhancements from new classes of side-channel attacks.

Golden Cove rounds out the trio, and is firmly in that 2021 segment in the graph. Process node here is a question mark, but we’re likely to see it on 10nm and or 7nm. Golden Cove is where Intel adds another slice of the serious pie onto its plate, with an increase in single threaded performance, a focus on AI performance, and potential networking and AI additions to the core design. Security features also look like they get a boost.

Intel Core Microarchitecture Roadmap
Core Name Year Process Node Improvements
Skylake 2015 14 nm Single Threaded Performance
Lower Power
Other Optimizations
Kaby Lake 2016 14 nm+ Frequency
Coffee Lake 2017 14 nm++ Frequency
Coffee Refresh 2018 14 nm++ Frequency
Sunny Cove 2019 10 nm Single Threaded Performance
New Instructions
Improved Scalability
Willow Cove 2020 ? 10 nm ? Cache Redesign
New Transistor Optimization
Security Features
Golden Cove 2021 ? 7 / 10 nm ? Single Threaded Performance
AI Performance
Networking / 5G Performance
Security Features

The lower-powered Atom microarchitecture roadmap is on a slower cadence than the Core microarchitecture, which is not surprising given its history. Seeing as how Atom has to fit into a range of devices, we’re expecting there to be a wide range in capabilities, especially from the SoC side.

The upcoming microarchitecture for 2019 is called Tremont, which focuses on single threaded performance increases, battery life increases, and network server performance. Based on some of the designs later in this article, we think that this will be a 10nm design.

Following Tremont will be Gracemont, which Intel lists as a 2021 product. As Atom is designed to continually push both the performance at the high-end of its capabilities and the efficiency at the low-end, Intel lists that Gracemont will have additional single threaded performance and a focus on increased frequency. This will be combined with additional vector performance, which likely means that Atom will get some wider vector units or support new vector instructions.

Beyond this will be a future ‘mont’ core (and not month as listed in the image). Here Intel is spitballing what this new 2023 core might have, for which the general listing of performance, frequency and features is there.

Intel Atom Microarchitecture Roadmap
  Year Process Improvements
Goldmont 2016 14 nm Higher Performance
Cryptography Features
Goldmont Plus 2017 14 nm Branch Prediction
More Execution
Larger Load/Store Buffers
More Cache
- 2018 - -
Tremont 2019 10 nm ? Single Threaded Performance
Network Server Performance
Battery Life
- 2020 - -
Gracemont 2021 10 nm ? Single Threaded Performance
Vector Performance
- 2022 - -
'Next Mont' 2023 ? Single Threaded Performance

As stated above, these are just the microarchitecture names. The actual chips these cores are in will likely have different names, which means a Lake name for the Core microarchitecture. At the event, Intel stated that Ice Lake would have Sunny Cove cores in it, for example.

Another aspect to Intel’s presentations was that future microarchitectures are likely to be uncoupled from any process technologies. In order to build some resiliency into the company’s product line moving forward, both Raja Koduri and Dr. Murthy Renduchintala explained that future microarchitectures will not be process dependent, and the latest products will come to market on the best process technologies available at the time. As a result we’re likely to see some of the Core designs straddle different manufacturing technologies.

Intel also went into a bit of detail on microarchitecture of Sunny Cove.

Sunny Cove Microarchitecture: A Peek At the Back End
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  • Raqia - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    Your point is taken and Keller did say it was in its infancy, but I am interested in whether what we're seeing here will be a competitive product or will remain an interesting science experiment. There are theoretical benefits of stacking high performance dies on low leakage ones like this but also substantial challenges and deficiencies which the current iteration doesn't show that it has overcome. What we might see in benefit in terms of better overall area, lower package level fab rejection rates, and better net power characteristic could be offset by a worse concentration of heat and hence more throttling when both elements are running or more expensive packaging. Perhaps in the end, a monolithic die is a better compromise despite losing out on some metrics for mobile.
  • nico_mach - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    So the GPU is going to be called ... Ten to the Eeth power? Is that right?

    I reject all these Xes used in unpredictable ways. The iPhones are pronounced exar and excess. This is ecksee, and I still use oh ess ecks on my emm bee eh at home.
  • Jon Tseng - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    >Intel actually says that the reason why this product came about is because a customer
    >asked for a product of about this performance but with a 2 mW standby power state.

    Huh wonder who the customer for that Core/Atom hybrid is. Seems a bit overpowered for a tablet. A bit underpowered for a MacBook (or for a car). Chromebooks maybe but most are too low volume to demand a custom part (maybe the education market is taking off?). PC OEMs don't normally take such custom parts for their laptops. But the graphics loadout implies some kind of PC-type application?

    Any ideas??
  • HStewart - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    From the diagram, it appears that hybrid cpu - has single Core CPU with 4 small (Atom) CPU's - such technology is done with Samsung Processors - this would mean it still lower power - but still have primary single thread core speed.

    Most interesting would be how the smaller core are used in scheduling system. Most like means and enhancement in OS for proper usage.
  • A5 - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    There aren't a ton of companies big enough to make Intel create a new product line just for them.

    The whole list is probably Apple/HP/Dell. Maybe Microsoft.
  • The_Assimilator - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    Microsoft Surface, obviously. It's become a very profitable line for MS but the current models are either too battery-hungry (Core CPUs) or too slow (Atom CPUs). Fovoros will give the best of both these worlds while also being x86... priced right, a Fovoros-based Surface will essentially end any argument for iPads in a business environment, especially considering most software remains firmly single-threaded. But it remains to be seen whether (a) Intel can get the power down even further (7W is still double most smartphones) and (b) whether their big.LITTLE implementation is good enough.
  • Raqia - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    Windows on ARM will do just fine now that Visual Studio emits ARM native code. Once Chrome gets ported (and that will be soon the platform should address 95% of typical daily use cases and provide substantial compatibility with legacy software / file formats. This is better value than iPads and upcoming dedicated SoCs like the 8cx should offer better performance and battery / heat characteristics than what Intel has planned for next year in the same power envelope.
  • The_Assimilator - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    I think you missed the part where Windows on ARM is horribly slow and therefore shitty. As a result, Microsoft has no plans to port anything useful (e.g. Office) to ARM, which means Windows on ARM is stuck being the lowest of the low-end. And that's not a space that Surface is intended to play in; Surface is an iPad competitor, and an iPad competitor can't be slow and shitty. Business devices can't be slow and shitty, and they absolutely need to be able to run Office.

    I expect that either Windows on ARM will be allowed to wither and die once Fovoros ships, or it will languish in a dead zone whereby only the cheapest of the cheap devices by no-name-brand OEMs (think $100 Lenovo tablets) use ARM chips and hence need it.

    So unless Qualcomm's 8cx is a game-changer in terms of performance, Fovoros should be the end of ARM on desktop, and thank fucking God for that.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    Microsoft already have an Office code base on ARM, so I'm not sure what you're talking about there.

    What would worry me about an Intel BIG.little style design is that if Windows doesn't assign your performance-critical application to the correct (big) core, performance will mostly suck just as hard as if all your cores were Atom.

    As such, I'd be cautious on calling a winner just yet.
  • gamerk2 - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    Agreed with this; Microsoft has been let down by Intel not having a good mobile platform. If it were up to them, they wouldn't bother with ARM, but they have to due to battery/power/heat requirements.

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