CPUID.COM, which hosts the wonderful CPU-Z utility, has a post up that shows where someone has taken a screenshot of what is probably an engineering sample for the upcoming Nehalem-EP (probably the Xeon 56xx series). This is the six-core, 32nm follow on to the quad-core, 45nm Xeon 55xx series of processors.
There will also be a consumer version of this (Gulftown), which will likely be the Core i9. Both of these have six cores, with hyper-threading, so the operating system (and SQL Server) will see twelve logical processors. The shared L3 cache has also been bumped from 8MB to 12MB.
This line of processors is the “Tick” part of Intel’s Tick-Tock strategy, where every two years, they bring out a new architecture (such as the 65nm Core2 and the 45nm Nehalem), which is the “Tock”. On alternate years, they bring out an enhanced version that uses a more modern manufacturing process (such as the 45nm Core2 and the 32nm Nehalem), which is the “Tick”.
On top of this, Intel has a turbo-mode in the Nehalem line, that increases the clock speed of individual cores, when other cores are not busy. There are supposed to be enhancements in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, that do a better job of keeping more threads on individual cores, rather than letting them switch among the cores (which should let turbo-mode work even better).
Quite honestly, I am worried that AMD can no longer compete with Intel in the CPU arena. As Intel continues to dominate, they will get lazy and complacent, and slow down the pace of innovation. It costs them billions of dollars to build new fabrication plants that allow them to do things like go from 45nm to 32nm manufacturing processes. If AMD does not pose a viable threat, suddenly we will see Intel slow down their product cycle, which is a bad thing for your average, harried DBA…