What’s in a name? Not much if you’re talking about the codename for the world’s first 22-nanometer processors that use Intel’s leading edge Tri-Gate transistors.
Groundbreaking as the “Ivy Bridge” chips may be, their codename isn’t, according to the man who came up with the initial moniker for Intel’s next Core processor family. Ivy Bridge is the internal codename for Intel’s third-generation Core processors, the first of which will be unveiled in April.
“You might think there’s a lot of meaning behind the name, but the reality is I just tried to find a nice name that could pass the legal test,” said Arie Harsat, the strategic planning manager behind several of Intel’s prominent codenames including “Yonah,” “Merom” and “Sandy Bridge.”
Internal Intel codenames derive from existing geographic places in North America. A rare exception is “Sandy Bridge,” the codename for Intel’s second-generation Core processor. In Intel’s so-called “tick-tock” model, “Ivy Bridge” is a “tick,” an advance in manufacturing process technology, to the ‘tock” that was the “Sandy Bridge” microarchitecture.
To understand how “Ivy Bridge” got its name, it’s helpful to look back at how the company came up with “Sandy Bridge.” Harsat, who is based in Haifa, Israel, originally named the “Sandy Bridge” microarchitecture “Gesher,” the Hebrew word for “bridge.”
The rationale, which he admits bypassed the geographical criteria for codenames, was that his team was responsible for defining a new generation of microarchitecture, or as Harsat saw it, “a bridge into the future.”
However, when an industry analyst pointed out that Gesher is also a former political party in Israel, the codename was changed to the English translation of “Gesher” preceded by “Sandy.” Harsat doesn’t recall the origin of “Sandy,” so it may or may not be a nod to beach sand, the prime ingredient of silicon wafers.
Tasked with naming the successor to “Sandy Bridge,” Harsat wanted consistency and a smooth approval process.
“Naming products is much harder than it was naming my three kids,” he said.
Working off “Bridge,” Harsat searched for a purely American appellation. He bypassed names that are both Hebraic and a North American geographic location, such as “Dothan” (a city in Alabama), “Yonah” (a mountain in Georgia) and “Merom” (a town in Indiana), all former codenames for Intel mobile chips.
“There are so many places in the U.S. named something Bridge or Bridge something,” Harsat said. “I found ‘Ivy Bridge’ and I said to myself, ‘that’s a nice name and ivy is a nice plant.'”
Despite the existence of an Ivy Bridge College in Toledo, Ohio and the Ivy Bridge Café in Bedford, Va., the name was approved. That OK initiated the approximately 5-year lifespan of the Ivy Bridge codename, which has since been officially renamed as Intel’s “3rd generation Intel Core processor.”
Ironically, the amount of equity that builds up around Intel codenames remains a source of frustration for the company’s marketing and branding organisation. Even though Intel has talked publicly about third-generation Core processors, it’s “Ivy Bridge” that seems to get more attention and use among press and analysts. Even after the official launch of a chip, internal codenames can live on for some time.
“I suspect the press and analysts do it partially out of habit because they have been using the codenames for months before we announce the brand names,” said Brian Fravel, director of brand strategy at Intel.
Though the codename may fade into memory, the technology world may never know which “Ivy Bridge” Intel’s “Ivy Bridge” is named after.
“I really don’t remember,” Harsat confessed. “It may have been that several ‘Ivy Bridges’ came up in the search and since I found one I didn’t care about which.”
Unless Harsat has an “aha moment,” bragging rights can be shared by a few roads in California, Maryland and Virginia, and a span across a creek in southwest Missouri.