Intel's Maloney talks XScale, P2P

Sean Maloney is just a day into his new job as director and executive vice president of Intel Corp.'s newly-formed Networking and Communications Group. Maloney took the stage at Comdex Chicago on Wednesday and shared his insight on Intel's latest processors, reflected on the history of the PC, and shared the stage with movie star Morgan Freeman and musician Thomas Dolby to express support for new multimedia technologies.

Maloney after his keynote speech sat down with IDG News Service and talked about his new job, Intel's forthcoming XScale microarchitecture, the company's role in the growth of peer-to-peer computing and the state of the semiconductor market in general. The following is an edited version of a question and answer session with Maloney, who until this week was senior vice president and director of sales and marketing.

IDGNS: You recently were given a new role at Intel. Can you briefly talk about your new responsibilities?

Maloney: I am running a group that combines our Networking Communications Group and our Communications Products Group. It is kind of pulling together the communication groups inside of Intel, including most of the acquisitions that we have done recently. So, I actually started yesterday (Tuesday). It's a brand new position.

What we have done over the last years is really become serious about providing building blocks for communications, essentially for the next generation for the network and the next phase of the Internet roll out. We've always been involved in communications technology and, in the last three years, we've upped the pace 10 times. We are concentrating on making breakthrough, price-performance products to build the next generation of the Internet, whether it is wireless for the home or the office or Ethernet, all the way up to 40Gbps (bits-per-second) optical, or long-haul components for SONET.

IDGNS: With the XScale microarchitecture, what makes it suitable for so many products all the way from networking routers to cell phones?

Maloney: It is a very, very efficient high performance computing engine. It has a number of attributes to it. It can do very high performance at low power. That attribute also means you can put it in phones or into PDAs (personal digital assistants). When those phones or PDAs are doing very simple tasks, the processor almost consumes no power. When it is doing something more complex (like video or audio), which things are going to do, it dynamically gets much more powerful and can run at up to 1GHz.

In addition, what we can do with that core microprocessor is bolt what we call packet engines onto the side of it. Those packet engines are designed to manipulate IP (Internet Protocol) packets. You think about router or router access switches; there is a torrent of IP packets coming in to them. Those packets have to be interpreted in actions, and that architecture is very good in doing that. You can build very intelligent routers with this technology, and that is what our customers are doing.

IDGNS: What are some of the first products we may see Xscale in, and when?

Maloney: You are going to see it in next-generation router switches. You're seeing it in next-generation DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology, next generation cell phones and PDAs. There will be a whole array of those products coming out in the next year and a half. (Maloney clarified that products with XScale will start coming out within a year).

IDGNS: Can you talk about Intel's assistance with the development of peer-to-peer technology?

Maloney: The one that I think is very interesting is ... e-learning. E-business is complicated. In large organizations, tens or hundreds of people end up making it happen and then thousands end up using those systems. Those people need to be trained. The good news is that all that training material to a large extent exists. The bad news is that no one can gain access to it. Every B2B (business-to-business) company produces voluminous training materials. That material is not easily accessible. Wouldn't it be great if you could access it over the Internet? You can't because the bandwidth required is humongous. If there are 60,000 of us and we all want to keep using the server, it is not going to work. That's where P2P comes in.

I'll give you an example. Let's take a New York office of a West Coast company. If everyone wanted to do training, the bandwidth (needed) would be insane. So, what happens is that the first person that comes to the office that day that wants to do training logs on and the file is downloaded, stored locally and then P2P takes over. So, the next person who comes to the office that wants to access that training video (can gain access to it locally from the first user's computer). ... So, you can access e-learning quickly and locally.

We are not producing the (P2P) technology; we are enabling it. So we are helping (P2P companies), but we are not going to go compete with them. What we are doing is trying to design the PC architecture, server architecture and network architectures to support that kind of thing.

IDGNS: What is the climate right now in the semiconductor market?

Maloney: You read the same newspapers that I read. The world is looking like an uncertain place. The semiconductor industry like other industry rides on the shoulders of the economy. And the economy does have a fundamental role in generating demand one way or the other. Clearly, we are in less favorable market conditions than six to nine months ago, and who knows when it is going to end.

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