This year’s IDF was all about Big Data and small devices – and it was full of surprises. One surprise was the announcement of the tiny Intel® Quark X1000, a 14 nm chip said to be 1/5 the size of current Intel® Atom processors and consume only 1/10 of the power. Intel released few details about the part, but it sounds like it could have a major impact on our industry.

 

I was also surprised by the show’s focus on embedded and telecom technologies – for example, a full quarter of the showroom was occupied by the Intelligent Systems Community and the Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI) Community. There was still plenty of “traditional” PC and server activity at the show, but to my eyes embedded and telecom were front and center. I took that as a sign that Intel is doubling down on its commitments to our industry.

 

Speaking of which, Intel showcased three new embedded platforms at the event. First up was the “Rangeley” Intel® Atom C2000 family, a telecom SoC that features up to eight Silvermont microarchitecture cores and Intel® Quickassist Technology. This new processor is well-suited to all kinds of dense processing applications. One of my favorite applications was the MicroBlade from SuperMicro, who packed an incredible 112 server nodes into a 6U chassis (Figure 1). Supermicro put a lot of effort into reducing cabling; according to the company, their design eliminates 700 cables. Check back tomorrow for additional coverage of these new processors, including details on systems from Advantech and Portwell.

 

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Intel also announced its “Ivy Bridge server” processors, i.e., the Intel® Xeon processor E5-2400/2600 v2 family and “Crystal Forest” Intel® Platform for Communications. These parts use a 22 nm die shrink to fit 25% more cores into the same power envelope as their predecessors. Several members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance had systems showcasing the new processors on hand. For example, ADLINK now offers the parts in its updated aTCA-6250 and aTCA-6200A blades.

 

Last but not least, Intel unveiled its “Bay Trail” platform. These products use the new 22 nm Silvermont microarchitecture to deliver huge upgrades in performance, graphics, and power. The products announced this week are not intended for embedded use, but Intel promised to release Intel® Atom processors and Intel® Celeron products for our marker shortly – and there were plenty of preview products on hand from the Alliance that showed what we could expect. Many of these products were in small form factors, showing the advantages of the processor’s reduced footprint and power consumption. For example, SBS previewed its COMe9600, a COM Express Type 10 module with a svelte 55 mm x 84 mm footprint.

 

The last product that caught my eye was the conga-TC87 from congatech. This COM Express compact module is one of the first products I’ve seen to use the “Haswell ULT” line of single-chip 4th generation Intel® Core processors. These processors offer a compelling balance of processing speed, graphics performance, low power (<15 W) and small footprint that is sure to be useful for high-performance systems with tough space and power constraints.

 

Of course, it wouldn’t be IDF without a lineup of cool demos. Some of this year’s best included:

 

  • An eye-controlled computer from Dell that can do things like help the disabled regain mobility – check out Computer Control is in the Eye of the Beholder for details
  • An ADLINK vehicle computer for buses that tracks parameters like position, fuel, and temperature. By sending this data to a central system, managers can keep things running smoothly. The system can even transmit in-bus surveillance footage to enhance security and automate passenger counting. See IDF Demo Highlights On-board System for Intelligent Bus Networks for details.
  • A demo from Kontron showing how its SYMKLOUD media server can transcode an impressive 144 channels of HD video in a 2U system using only 750 Watts. The secret to this performance lies in the 18 3rd generation Intel® Core i7 processors within the server. These processors incorporate a powerful but efficient transcode engine that requires only 5.2 Watts per video channel. If that doesn’t impress you, Kontron expects the 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors to nearly double this performance. Just as impressively, this performance can be deployed flexibly using the OpenStack virtualization technology provided by Vantrix – thus enabling video trancode to become a flexible cloud resource that can be re-assigned to other tasks as needed.
  • Multiple software defined networking (SDN) demos focused on Open vSwitch, such as a joint demo by Wind River and HP that showcased the 10X performance boost possible with Wind River’s Open Virtualization Profile. I also liked the Tieto SDN demo, which showed how they could achieve “5 nines” reliability on virtualized systems through techniques such as automatic failover.

 

There were much, much more to see and do at the show. If you haven’t made it to the showroom floor yet, I encourage you to do so tomorrow!

 

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Advantech, Dell OEM, Kontron, and Portwell are Premiers members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. ADLINK, congatec AG, Hewlett-Packard, SBS Science & Technology, and Wind River Systems are Associate members of the Alliance. Super Micro Computer Inc. and Tieto are Affliate members.


Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston