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Intel CPU On-chip Management Engine Runs on MINIX

With the transition to multi-core processors, and multi-core processors with integrated core-logic (chipset), the need arose for a low-level SoC embedded into the processor with just enough compute power to make sure all the components you pay for start-up and function as advertised. Enter the Intel ME (management engine). This is a full-fledged computer within your Intel processor, which isn't exposed to you. It runs on its very own tiny x86 CPU core that isn't exposed, and its software is driven on an infinitesimally small ROM and RAM. Since you can't have software without some sort of operating-system, Intel chose MINIX for the job.

MINIX is a Unix-like OS with an extremely small memory footprint. The OS was designed by Andrew Tanenbaum, originally as an educational tool to demonstrate that machines can still be built with extremely tiny code. If you're familiar with the "ring-level" system of hardware-access privilege by software, ring 0 would designate the "highest" level of access. A software with ring 0 access can erase your disk, flash your system BIOS, and even make your CPU run at any C-state. The OS kernel needs these privileges, and hence is a ring 0 software. Most user software, like the web-browser you're reading this on, runs at ring 3 (with the browser's own sandbox, the user-level, and API level forming inner levels). Intel ME runs at ring -3 (negative 3), and your OS has no power over it. Most system BIOS updates for Intel motherboards include a ROM update for ME. ME governs the functioning of the rest of the processor, its start-up, and booting. It also governs silicon-level security and management features that can't be compromised by malware.

Intel Launches High-Density ARM-based Stratix 10 FPGA on 14 nm

Intel today announced it has begun shipping its Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGA - the only high-end FPGA family with an integrated quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor. With densities greater than 1 million logic elements (MLE), Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGAs provide the flexibility and low latency benefit of integrating an ARM processor with a high-performance, high-density FPGA needed to tackle the design challenges of next-generation, high-performance systems.

By integrating the FPGA and the ARM processor, Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGAs provide an ideal solution for 5G wireless communication, software defined radios, secure computing for military applications, network function virtualization (NFV) and data center acceleration.

HP and Intel Become Official Overwatch League Sponsors

Tech leaders HP Inc. and Intel today joined forces with Blizzard Entertainment in major Overwatch League sponsorship deals that represent an extended investment in the groundbreaking professional league. As part of the multiyear agreements, Intel will sponsor future Overwatch competitive events in addition to the Overwatch League. Players taking part in these events will be equipped with cutting-edge gaming hardware from both HP and Intel. HP, and more specifically, its OMEN by HP gaming PCs and displays will be used exclusively for Overwatch League games, with PCs powered by Intel Core i7 processors.

"We're thrilled to be joining forces with HP and Intel to ensure that the teams competing professionally in Overwatch are equipped with top-end technology," said Pete Vlastelica, president & CEO of Blizzard Entertainment's Major League Gaming division. "Multiyear collaborations such as this illustrate the momentum behind the Overwatch League as well as a long-term commitment by us and our partners in what we see as the future of esports."

Intel 10 nm CPUs to See Very Limited Initial Launch in 2017

UPDATE: Some slides have surfaced today on Reddit that actually place Intel's updated 10 nm roadmap as starting initial risk production in 2Q 2018. The same leaks also point towards a yearly advancement in process technology (akin to Intel's current 14 nm+ and 14 nm++ production processes), with 10 nm+ risk production on 1Q 2019 and 10 nm++ on 1Q 2020. This roadmap, however, is relative to Intel's Custom Foundry partners; as such, this doesn't go directly against Intel CEO's Brian Kzarnich remarks on the latest investor call, since he was likely talking about the 10 nm ramp-up on Intel's own products.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has come out to say that the company's first 10 nm CPUs based on the "Cannon Lake" micro-architecture will see the light of day before this year's end. Intel has been having a slew of ramp-up delays with its 10 nm products, which prompted a slippage from an expected 2016, full-scale launch (whose ship has sailed, clearly) towards a timed, product-tier based strategy. Intel opted to first introduce 10 nm technology to FPGA accelerators, which due to their redundancy, would suffer less from yield issues.

GIGABYTE Unleashes Their Itty-bitty Z370N WiFi Motherboard

GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd, a leading manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards, has released the new GIGABYTE Z370N WIFI motherboard based on the Intel Z370 chipset. The new motherboard incorporates powerful performance capabilities within a compact design to provide users with a versatile motherboard for building their ideal PCs.

The GIGABYTE Z370N WIFI motherboard is optimized to support 8th Gen. Intel Core Processors. For a mini-ITX form factor, this motherboard can truly maximize the power of the Intel Core i7-8700K processors by easily reaching overclocked frequencies of 5GHz and higher. The motherboard uses an Intersil Hybrid Digital VRM design to ensure that power is distributed effectively, enabling the GIGABYTE Z370N WIFI to perform at its highest standards. Additionally, over 1000 memory modules have been validated by GIGABYTE to ensure proper compability with support for XMP profiles up to a frequency of 4600MHz when overclocked.

Intel Launches its Blazing-Fast Optane SSD 900P SSD

Intel today announced the launch of the Intel Optane SSD 900P Series, the first SSD for desktop PC and workstation users built on Intel Optane technology. Intel, in collaboration with Roberts Space Industries, announced the new SSD at CitizenCon, a Star Citizen community gathering in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Intel Optane SSD 900P Series delivers incredibly low latency and best-in-class random read and write performance at low queue depths - up to four times faster than competitive NAND-based SSDs - opening incredible new possibilities. With the new SSDs, users will unlock more potential from their platform. The Intel Optane SSD 900P Series is ideal for the most demanding storage workloads, including 3D rendering, complex simulations, fast game load times and more. Up to 22 times more endurance than other drives also gives the heaviest users peace of mind.

Intel Reports Q3-2017 Financial Results

Intel Corporation today reported third-quarter 2017 financial results. "We executed well in the third quarter with strong results across the business, and we're on track to a record year," said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO. "I'm excited about our progress and our future. Intel's product line-up is the strongest it has ever been with more innovation on the way for artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and more." "In the third quarter, we delivered record earnings, exceeded our EPS expectations, and increased our profit expectations for the full year," said Bob Swan, Intel CFO. "We feel great about Intel's transformation and where we are nine months into our three year plan." In the third quarter, the company generated approximately $6.3 billion in cash from operations, paid dividends of $1.3 billion, and used $1.1 billion to repurchase 31 million shares of stock.

In the third quarter, Intel saw strength across the business. The data center, Internet of Things and memory businesses all achieved record quarterly revenue, and Intel extended its performance leadership with the launches of 8th Gen Intel Core and Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Intel's FPGA business, the Programmable Solutions Group, is experiencing strong momentum, winning designs with automotive and cloud service provider customers that advance Intel's position in artificial intelligence. The company also furthered its autonomous driving efforts with exciting customer wins and the completion of the Mobileye tender offer, four months earlier than expected.

Intel Starts Shipping its High-End Stratix 10 SX FPGA

Intel today announced it has begun shipping its Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGA - the only high-end FPGA family with an integrated quad-core ARM* Cortex*-A53 processor. With densities greater than 1 million logic elements (MLE), Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGAs provide the flexibility and low latency benefit of integrating an ARM processor with a high-performance, high-density FPGA needed to tackle the design challenges of next-generation, high-performance systems.

By integrating the FPGA and the ARM processor, Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGAs provide an ideal solution for 5G wireless communication, software defined radios, secure computing for military applications, network function virtualization (NFV) and data center acceleration.

Intel "Cannon Lake" Could Bring AVX-512 Instruction-set to the Mainstream

Intel's next-generation "Cannon Lake" CPU micro-architecture could see the introduction of the AVX-512 instruction-set to the mainstream segments (MSDT or mainstream-desktop, and mobile). It is currently available on the company's Core X "Skylake-X" HEDT processors, and on the company's Xeon "Skylake-W," Xeon Scalable "Skylake-SP," and in a limited form on the Xeon Phi Knights Landing and Knights Mill scalar compute chips.

The upcoming "Cannon Lake" mainstream silicon will feature AVX512F, AVX512CD, AVX512DQ, AVX512BW, and AVX512VL instructions, and will support AVX512_IFMA and AVX512_VBMI commands, making it a slightly broader implementation of AVX-512 than the "Skylake-SP" silicon. The new AVX-512 will vastly improve performance of compute-intensive applications that take advantage of it. It will also be a key component of future security standards.

ASUS Confirms Z270 Platform Could be Compatible with Intel Coffee Lake CPUs

In an interview with Bit-tech, ASUS ROG motherboard product manager Andrew Wu has let the proverbial cat out of the bag: apparently, compatibility of Z270 boards with Coffee Lake processors wouldn't have been impossible after all. When asked why the new Coffee Lake CPUs aren't compatible with the previously released Z270 platform, Andrew Wu explained that it" (...) depends on Intel's decision." Andrew Wu also went on to mention that Intel's stated power delivery reasons don't "make much difference", and that ASUS themselves could make their Z270 motherboards compatible with Coffee Lake. For that, however, they'd need "(...) an upgrade from the ME [Management Engine] and a BIOS update", for which "Intel somehow has locked the compatibility."

It seems all of that extra "pin-count" doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of the current Coffee Lake lineup with up to six core processors - the CPU socket and platform as designed with Z270 would have been able to handle the increased core counts and power loads. The question gets murkier with Intel's ability to release an 8-core CPU to the Z370 platform though - that particular amount of cores might indeed prove to be too much for Z270's power delivery. Making an educated guess, it would seem that Intel could have allowed for Coffee Lake compatibility on Z270 motherboards on CPUs up to 6 cores, but would need the new revisions on the Z370 platform to allow for operation of 8-core Coffee Lake chips.
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