Will Intel 3rd Generation Intel Core processor make a big splash in embedded computing applications?

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., unveiled its 3rd Generation Intel Core processor this week, which promises performance increases in processing speed, graphics capability, and data throughput over the 2nd Generation Core processor family, which burst on the scene in January 2011 to much fanfare and excitement in the military embedded systems industry.

As Intel announced the 3d Generation Core processors on Monday, which the company previously had called Ivy Bridge, embedded computing companies almost immediately started rolling out products, which include single-board computers and mezzanine-board computers from companies like GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va.; Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions in Ashburn, Va.; Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis.; Mercury Computer Systems in Chelmsford, Mass.; and Concurrent Technologies in Woburn, Mass.

With this flurry of embedded computing product introductions this week based on the 3rd Generation Core processor, however, the best is yet to come, as Intel officials say they will introduce new versions of the chips in coming months for systems like servers and embedded computing in aerospace and defense, industrial control, medical devices, and similar applications.

One big question is will the 3rd Generation Core processor make as big a splash in the embedded computing industry as the 2nd Generation Core made little more than 15 months ago?

The answer is probably not. The 2nd Generation Core processor introduced not only enhanced on-board graphics processing, but especially important for the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry was the chip's support for floating-point processing.

At the time of the 2nd Generation Core processor's introduction, Intel rival Freescale Semiconductor in Austin, Texas, had discontinued support for floating-point processing on its latest generation of microprocessors, which left defense companies looking for new ways to tackle difficult digital signal processing for applications like radar processing, sonar, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

Intel's introduction of the 2nd Generation Core processors took the aerospace and defense embedded computing business by storm. Even through Freescale later re-introduced floating-point processing, but Intel almost overnight grabbed a huge chunk of the aerospace and defense embedded processor market.

The 3rd Generation Core processors from Intel, while introducing formidable enhancements, do not represent the revolutionary change in the embedded computing market that the previous generation of chips did. Nevertheless, the new chip introduction is causing much excitement among embedded computing designers.

The quad-core 3rd Generation Intel Core processor family is touted as delivering visual and performance gains, and are the first chips made using Intel’s 22-nanometer 3-D tri-gate transistor technology, Intel officials say. The new-generation chips are coming in high-end desktop, laptop, and all-in-one (AIO) designs.

The 3-D tri-gate transistor and architectural enhancements can as much as double the 3-D graphics and HD media processing performance over Intel’s 2nd Generation Core processors.

The performance gains in the 3rd Generation Core processors are from the 3D structure of the Intel transistors, company officials say. Adding a third dimension enables Intel to increase transistor density and add capabilities. Intel also reworked the 3rd Generation Core's graphics architecture, and shrunk the size of the underlying transistors.

The 3rd Generation Intel Core processor also adds security such as Intel Secure Key and Intel OS Guard. Intel Secure Key is a digital random number generator that creates random numbers to strengthen encryption algorithms. Intel OS Guard helps defend against privilege escalation attacks where a hacker remotely takes over another person's system.

Systems with 3rd Generation Intel Core processors also transfer data more quickly than previous versions due to integrated PCI Express 3.0 and USB 3.0, which bring bigger data pipes.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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