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Understanding Intel shift from Tick-Tock development cycle to Process Architecture Optimisation

Intel Process Architecture Optimisation
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Kaby Lake processors are now commercially available in the market. Kaby Lake processor microarchitecture is the first to use Intel latest development. This article will help you understand the old Tick-Tock and latest Process Architecture Optimisation development cycle followed by Intel.

Intel Tick-Tock manufacturing process

The Tick-Tock process is referred to as a year by year cycle. In one year, they upgrade the manufacturing process. The next year, they concentrate on upgrading microprocessor architecture.

With every Tick, a new manufacturing process is introduced which help to reduce the size of transistors. For e.g., Haswell Microprocessors from Intel used 22nm, while the latest Skylake and Kaby Lake use the smallest 14nm. The reduction in size helps in reducing the size of the processor, incorporate more transistors inside the chip, improved performance, and reduced power consumption. Overall, this leads to building small devices which are powerful and last longer.

With every Tock, a new microarchitecture is developed. Microarchitecture decides how instructions are processed, decoded and how the result is displayed. The microarchitecture also affects the number of cores and cache memory, power consumption, connectivity, manufacturability etc. This architecture is designed to make the most out of processing technology. Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, Skylake, Kaby Lake are all examples of Intel microarchitecture.

Intel recently announced the Tick-Tock cycle is no more Intel’s approach towards developing new microprocessors. Skylake architecture is the last to use the Tick-Tock process.

Reason to end the Tick-Tock cycle

10 years back Intel was churning out performance improvements every now and then. They were able to release a steady flow of performance improved new microprocessors constantly. For e.g. the Skylake and Kaby Lake released were delayed than expected. It showed how Intel is struggling with releasing more improved microprocessors.

This is said to be because of limitations that can be achieved using Copper on Silicon. It is difficult to achieve the same rate of success in reducing transistor size and performance because of the limitations.

Intel’s new Process Architecture Optimisation development process

Intel’s new development process is called Process Architecture Optimisation. The first is Process which is equal to Tick, followed by Architecture which is equal to Tack. The third phase is Optimisation where the process and architecture are tweaked constantly to achieve better performances. It is not clear what will be the time duration for each development process. (The information will be updated as soon as the information is available.)

Currently, the latest processor from Intel is using the Kaby Lake architecture which was announced in Aug 2016. The processor uses 14nm process technology. The desktop version was commercially released in Jan 2017. Kaby Lake architecture is the first to use the latest Process Architecture Optimisation.

The next release from Intel will be the Cannonlake which use a 10nm processing technology. The processor was scheduled to be released in 2016 but got delayed. The latest release date from Intel is by mid of 2017.

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