How Nehalem Changes the Game for ATCA Design


Over the last decade, the design engineering community has been conditioned to think that all good ideas come from thinking "outside the box" - that is, to allow creativity to flow, without much regard for practical constraints. In the ATCA design domain, the challenge is how to think creatively inside the box - specifically, how to squeeze more performance into equipment built to the ATCA specification.


As the ATCA market has evolved, handling increasing thermal issues and power requirements has become an exercise in true design creativity. Designing to the ATCA spec, with its fixed power, thermal and form factor, has made it difficult to meet market demand for the combination of:


  • higher CPU performance (which until now was possible only with a dual socket configuration)

  • more memory

  • value-added features such as local storage, AMC, etc.


How Nehalem changes the game


Intel processors' performance keeps pace with Moore's Law, doubling every 18 months or so. But the Nehalem processor does more than deliver higher compute power; it has a new micro architecture with several improvements, particularly in the memory subsystem. Nehalem has an integrated memory controller, twice the memory bandwidth (generation to generation), and more memory channels.


Add hyperthreading (allowing two threads per core) to the mix and Nehalem gives you have eight virtual cores/sockets. This offers better platform performance for a wide array of applications than the eight physical cores from previous processor generations. Go figure -- Nehalem delivers better platform performance than two previous-gen quad-core processors, for the cost of one!


With Nehalem launch around the corner (Q4'08-Q1'09), picking Nehalem for the 2008 ATCA SBC is as simple as picking Olympian Michael Phelps for the 200 meter freestyle swim competition. You get the point.


In short, Nehalem makes it possible to design a high-performance ATCA CPU board possible with just one processor. This is the what’s game-changing for ATCA system designers.


Nehalem enables fundamental design improvements


With its superior performance and feature set, Nehalem will allow you to squeeze more out of the inherent constraints of the ATCA specification. You can leverage Nehalem to meet the market's 2x-3x generation-to-generation performance expectation with just a single CPU on ATCA. This frees up real estate and power on the board to allow for more memory and platform features such as storage and AMC.


Specifically, you can:


  1. Use a single board to address a broader set of memory-intensive applications, because you will have much more memory capability on-board, along with Nehalem’s performance boost.

  2. Deliver a higher-performance system at a lower cost with a single CPU and more DIMM slots. More DIMM slots allow lower-density DIMMs that are cheaper and run cooler than higher density ones.


Reducing risk and total cost of ownership


By packing more capabilities onto a single board, a broader set of applications can be addressed with the same board. This means fewer SKUs to manage and inventory, lower manufacturing costs, and a drop in validation requirements.


RadiSys is committed to providing performance at the beat rate of the silicon. Nehalem presents an exciting array of possibilities for all of us in the embedded community ... inside every ATCA system.


Chandresh Ruparel

Sr. Product Line Manager


Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:17 PM