Intel sampling Jasper Forest chips with built-in I/O hub

Chip giant Intel has started sampling the latest iteration of its Nehalem processors, codenamed Jasper Forest.

Steve Smith, vice president digital enterprise group operations at Intel, made the announcement that the chips had started limited production, stressing that the on-chip I/O hub made the 45nm Jasper Forest more power efficient – Intel says that in tests, a quad core Xeon chip required 27 watts less power than a conventional Nehalem.

Because the I/O functions are normally handled by a separate controller, the integration not only cuts the power budget of a system, but also frees up space on the motherboard.

“We have removed a fairly large-footprint chip and saved power by integrating I/O on to a single chip,” said Smith. “Jasper Forest is based on Nehalem but integrates the right peripherals for embedded communications devices and high-end storage like you have in a data centers.

“Bringing Nehalem to high-end embedded designs, we save board space and power.”

Smith added that the chips provide similar performance to existing Nehalem-based Xeon processors and that Jasper Forest was another step toward Intel’s goal of packing more features onto a single piece of silicon. The chip supports PCI Express, said Smith.

Jasper Forest chips will be offered in single, dual and quad core versions designed for the embedded, communications and storage markets and should start appearing in systems early next year. The Clarksfield variant of Nehalem, also built at 45nm and incorporating on-die I/O, is aimed at the mobile market.

Why the announcement has been made now, rather than waiting until the Intel Developer Forum in a few days’ time, remains a bit of a mystery.