At its virtual Architecture Day 2021, Intel announced a number of new initiatives, key among them an Arm-like future for its x86 chipsets.
“At Architecture Day 2021, Intel detailed the company’s architectural innovations to meet this exploding demand, setting the stage for new generations of leadership products,” Intel notes. “Intel architects provided details on two new x86 central processing unit architectures; Intel’s first performance hybrid architecture and Intel Thread Director; Intel’s next-generation data center processors; infrastructure processing unit architectures; and upcoming graphics architectures.”
Let’s focus on the most important of those new x86 architectures, shall we?
More specifically, the bit where Intel is (and not for the first time) adopting an Arm-like architecture for its Core processors. The key advance here will come in a coming Intel Core chipset generation that’s codenamed “Alder Lake.” This next-generation client architecture is described as “Intel’s first performance hybrid architecture, with “performance” being the key differentiator with previous Arm-like big.Little core configurations, which were decidedly underwhelming.
“Alder Lake integrates a Performance-core and an Efficient-core to provide significant performance across all workload types,” the processor giant explains. “For the cores to work seamlessly with the operating system, Intel developed Intel Thread Director. Built directly into the core, Thread Director empowers the operating system to place the right thread on the right core at the right time. Alder Lake will deliver performance that scales to support all client segments from ultra-portable laptops to enthusiast and commercial desktops.”
For this processor evolution to work well, of course, it needs support from OS platform makers like Microsoft. And as it promised at the June Windows 11 reveal, Microsoft will only optimize its latest client OS, and not Windows 10, for this new architecture.
“Throughout the Windows 11 development cycle, my team has been working with our colleagues at Intel to enlighten and optimize our upcoming OS to take full advantage of the Performance Hybrid architecture and Thread Director in particular,” Microsoft’s Mehmet Iyigun noted during Intel’s Architecture Day 2021 event. “With Thread Director feedback, the Windows 11 thread scheduler is much smarter about dynamically picking the most appropriate core based on the workload to achieve the best power and performance.”
Alder Lake will ship as the 12th-generation Intel Core processor family, with the first 10-nm chipsets expected in the final quarter of 2021.