Intel has been socking it to AMD with its Core 2 Quad processors. But apparently that's not enough.

Details have just leaked regarding a secret new six-core CPU from Intel. It could hit the desktop as early as this summer.

Codename 'Dunnington'

According to a joint Sun Microsystems / Intel document accidentally posted on Sun's website, the new processor is codenamed 'Dunnington' and will be based on Intel's existing 45nm Penryn architecture.

It's therefore not a member of the all new Nehalem family, due out towards the end of this year. Penryn forms the basis of the latest 45nm Core 2 Duo and Quad CPUs as well as Intel's Xeon workstation and server processors.

Arranged in three dual-core pairs (but manufactured in a single die), Dunnington packs no less than 3MB of L2 cache memory per dual-core pairing and 16MB of L3 shared cache.

That's a truly breathtaking quantity of cache memory for an x86 CPU. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Dunnington is chiefly designed to do battle in the high end server market.

Desktop Dunnington?

So, it's not a chip destined to hit the desktop? Not so fast. Intel has previously rebadged big-cache server chips as Extreme Edition desktop processors.

Of course, the last time that happened, Intel was taking a bit of a beating from AMD's Athlon 64 processor. Then again, more recently Intel leveraged an entire Xeon platform to bring us the dual-socket, eight-core extravagance that is Skulltrail.

Overall, given Intel's new found taste for exotic kit, we think there's a solid chance of desktop Dunningtons. Perhaps we'll find out at the Shanghai instalment of the Intel Developer Forum in early April. Rest assured, we'll beat Intel engineers over the head with broken Pentium 4 motherboards until they confess.

Whatever, the Xeon variant of this new six-core monster is pencilled in the second half of 2008. That in turn poses a question about the likely timing for the arrival of the heavily revised Nehalem architecture.

Assuming Intel plans to make a little hay out of Dunnington, we would expect Intel to give it several months on the market before introducing the even more advanced Nehalem family. All of which points to a Nehalem launch later in '08 than we had previously suspected.