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AMD drafts road map for 45nm server processors

Posted: 09 May 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:45nm road map? server processor? Barcelona CPU?

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has disclosed a road map for 45nm server processors using six and twelve cores through 2010. Lifting a page from the playbook of archrival Intel Corp., the 12-core CPU will use two six-core die in a multichip package.

Analysts said AMD's updated road map should help it remain competitive with Intel while remaining appropriately conservative in the wake of AMD's heavy financial losses and delays for its four-core Barcelona server CPU.

AMD said it will ship in early 2010 its Magny-Cours processor. It will use two six-core die of a 2010-class design called Sao Paolo linked via a novel interconnect the company would not discuss.

Randy Allen, general manager of AMD's server and workstation division, said the company rejected the approach Intel took to linking two die on a chip. The method it came up with achieves "nearly monolithic levels of performance," he said.

AMD claims its Barcelona server CPU has an average 13 percent performance advantage over Intel's chips, in part because Barcelona packs all four cores on one die while Intel's parts link two die in a package.

The current road map showed no new core designs. AMD has discussed a new high-performance core called Bulldozer as well as a low-power core, but neither appeared on the server road map through 2010.

Sampling Shanghai
The next step for AMD is its move from 65nm to 45nm process technology. A four-core server CPU dubbed Shanghai now sampling and set to ship before the end of the year will be among the first parts made in the 45nm process.

Shanghai will deliver a performance boost of about 20 percent over Barcelona thanks to the new process as well as a doubling of overall cache size and a move to 800MHz DDR2 memory.

In late 2009, AMD plans to ship Istanbul, a newly disclosed six-core processor, also made in 45nm, and likely to deliver a 20 percent performance boost over the Shanghai design. Analysts expect the 45nm technology could help AMD reduce silicon costs and get back to profitability after several loss-making quarters.

Allen would not comment on reports AMD might sell its fabs or form a joint venture around them. He did say the current road map takes into account any business changes with the fabs.

The 2010-class Sao Paolo will add to the six-core Istanbul design support for DDR3 memory and support for four links of AMD's HyperTransport ver 3.0 interconnect. Sao Paolo will also include a new probe filter to increase performance by reducing coherency traffic on the device. Alan said Sao Paolo will likely have a smaller than 20 percent performance increase over the 2009 Istanbul chip.

In 2010, AMD will introduce its own core logic chipsets for the server processors. They will support the 5GHz version of PCIe as well as a new spec for I/O virtualization over PCIe. Currently AMD servers use chipsets from Broadcom or NVidia.

Competition with Intel
For its part, Intel is expected to ship this fall its first server processors that put four and six cores on a single die, all using 45nm technology. The six-core Intel Dunnington design is expected to use more cache memory than the six-core AMD server chips.

"Overall I think you will see AMD remain competitive with Intel," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64. "They are not knocking the ball out of the park as they did a few years ago with the original Opteron design, but they are staying in the game, and that's the best they can do right now," he said.

Dean McCarron, principal of Mercury Research, agreed. With its move to a multichip 12-core CPU "AMD is making the same business decision as Intel for getting to the most performance and revenue per silicon area," said McCarron. "In light of AMD's financial position that makes a lot of sense. They are being judicious," he added.

The current Barcelona chip, originally scheduled for release late last year, has been shipping about six weeks, Allen said. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun are expected to roll out systems using it before June.

"We are optimistic we have resolved all the execution issues" with Barcelona that could impact future products, he said.

Allen said the Shanghai design was created by teams in several locations with significant blocks designed in Austin and India. "This was the first product where our India design center took substantial leadership in chip integration and shows this center is becoming a big part of our strategy," he said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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