Intel will introduce a succession of computing platforms that build on the efficiency gains it achieved with a new family of dual-core processors, company executives announced last week.

These range from the Bensley and Caneland server platforms to the Glidewell workstation platform, the Bridge Creek digital home platform and Averill digital office platform.

Intel claims it has achieved great increases in power efficiency with its 65-nanometre family of dual-core chips, all using the company's new Core microarchitecture: the Merom, Conroe and Woodcrest processors.

More than the processor

But a computing platform also includes chipsets, networking elements and management software. So Intel executives described the evolution of the platforms that surround the new chips.

Two main attributes of the Core microarchitecture chips will empower changes to these platforms: power efficiency and multiple cores, said Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner at the company's Intel Developer Forum.

Server solutions - Xserve future?

A typical server running Intel's current Xeon processor draws a balance of about 48 per cent of its electricity for the processor and 52 per cent for the platform. But using the new, 65-nanometre Woodcrest chip, that split will change to just 33 per cent for the processor, and 67 per cent for the platform, he said. Efficiency gains of that magnitude will change the ways engineers seek better platform performance.

Intel's new Xeon-based platform, code-named Bensley, will begin with the Dempsey processor, scheduled to ship by the end of March. The system is designed for efficiency in performance per watt.

Rapid changes ahead

Dempsey won't last long; by the third quarter of 2006, Intel plans to update Bensley with the Woodcrest processor. That change will further reduce power consumption by 35 per cent while delivering greater than 80 per cent improvement in computing performance, the company claims. Then Intel will update Bensley yet again in early 2007, when it releases the quad-core Clovertown processor.

Also in the server market, Intel next week will ship the ultra-low-power, dual-core Sossaman processor, designed for server blades, storage devices and telecommunications equipment. And by 2007, Intel will ship the quad-core Tigerton processor, designed to work in the Caneland server platform.

In fact, Intel thinks those power-efficient, multicore processors are appropriate for nearly every sector of the server marketplace.

"By the end of the year, over 85 per cent of our server platforms will be dual core," said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group.

What's next for Macs?

For workstation applications, Intel plans to release the Glidewell platform, also designed to use Woodcrest processors today and Clovertown processors tomorrow. Both Bensley and Glidewell are targeted for introduction in the second quarter of 2006.

For desktop jobs, Intel plans to use its new Conroe processor in Bridge Creek, its Digital Home platform, and in Averill, its Digital Office platform, due in the second half of 2006. Conroe will ship in the third quarter of 2006. Averill will combine the Conroe processor with a new chipset code-named Broadwater, along with functions like IT security, virtualisation and active management.

Customers who run high-end desktop applications may want to wait until the first quarter of 2007, when Intel will release its quad-core Kentsfield processor.

Finally, Intel will improve its mobile platform. The company's new Core microarchitecture-based processor for mobile applications - Merom - is designed to work within the Centrino Duo platform. Intel hopes to ship Merom chips in time for the 2006 holiday buying season.