Lets ride the "Santa Rosa" wave

Mooly Eden, Intel Vice President and General Manager, Mobile Products Group, sits on the Intel Chopper Tuesday, May 8, 2007 in San Francisco, Calif. Intel will announce the launch of its newest processing system to the press, Centrino, on Wednesday morning, May 9. 

Photo by Erin Lubin
 Yesterday Intel and nearly every major OEM announced the initial wave of new laptops based on the "Santa Rosa" chipset's.  The laptop world as you know it just changed, big time.  Faster processors, more addressable memory, next generation video support, etc.  In short, power users hungry for a portable workstation just hit pay dirt.

Now keep in mind that today marks the very first wave, but build a dream machine in your mind, and you may very well have it by Christmas.  The timing is perfect for my team.  At a time when our product mix is moving to the 64bit world, so is the hardware we need to demonstrate those products.

The Microsoft product groups worry about their Enterprise products running on our laptops.  That's reasonable.  Nobody is going to run a data center on a dual core 64bit laptop.  However, when the IT Pro evangelists in Microsoft demonstrate products, we aren't normally stressing the crud out of the products anyway. 

If you look at the history of bottlenecks my team faces, it runs in cycles. Slow laptop disks and sub par I/O performance was solved by faster laptops disks, then external parallel ATA drives (USB, Firewires), then serial ATA drives via PCI Express ExpressCards.  Next was the CPU bottleneck.  We went from single processors to dual processors.  Then of course there's memory.  Prior to today, most laptops would not address more than about 3.2gig of RAM even if they were running a 64bit operating system.  Video has always been a luxury until Windows Vista shipped.

When Windows Vista shipped, the video horsepower bar was raised.  Desktop composition, glass effects, and the Windows Presentation Foundation has a price.  Throw in high definition decoding or other graphics needy application and all of the sudden that mobile GPU is like a deer in the headlights. 

So how did this really change?

First of all, the dual processors are faster.  Faster front side buses, bigger buffers, more efficient pipelines, better caching, etc.  The new CPUs are supposed to consume less power.  For us laptop users, that's a very good thing.  The new chipset has better  memory support at well.  You'll be able to address up to 8GB in many 64bit operating system configurations.  This is really attractive for my team because it means we can allocate more memory to the virtual machines we demonstrate as well as running more of them.

Running more virtual machines means we can do a better job of simulating complex infrastructure.  It'll be easier to have dedicated VM's that serve specific functions like a sql database, reporting services, software distribution and patch management, clients, edge firewalls, etc.  In the past we did this with multiple machines but with 8GB of memory, I'll be able to run about eight virtual machines or more.  You can get really creative with that much horsepower.

Unfortunately, a 8GB laptop config is still months off.  The memory makers have to actually produce 4GB SoDIMMs.  Then of course they need to be affordable.  This time last year, 2GB SoDIMMs were about $2000 USD.  Wanna guess what a 4GB SoDIMM is going to run when they start shipping?

So check out the offerings from Dell, Lenovo, HP, Gateway, Toshiba, etc.  Keep in mind they'll be announcing additional products later this month and next.  I see a laptop running Windows Server code named "Longhorn" x64 with Window Server virtualization (WSv) in the not too distant future.  Oh, and while I'm on that subject, look for some interesting announcements at the upcoming WINHEC.

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