AMD Shoots for Quad Cores

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2005-11-15

AMD Shoots for Quad Cores

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is planning for quads.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., chip maker is aiming to roll out a quad-core-capable processor family during 2007 and switch to an all-new processor architecture later this decade.

The quad-capable family will result in a wide range of four core processors, including offerings for desktops, notebooks and one for servers that can fit into machines with as many as 32 processors, AMD executives said in a meeting for analysts.

AMD aims to use its ability to step up on processor cores in 2007, along with its move to a new processor architecture around 2008 or 2009 as a means to meet its goals of maintaining what it sees as a technical lead over Intel Corp., its larger rival, while fostering a grow rate thats at least two-times the market average, company executives said in a meeting for analysts on Tuesday.

As one way of growing, AMD aims to double the number of computer platforms available from top-tier manufacturers that use its chips.

It hopes to use its Opteron chips recent wins in rack-mount servers to gain more acceptance in areas such as blade servers, corporate desktops and business notebooks, over time, executives explained at the meeting.

"People that can trust us for their server technology can trust us for their client technology," said Henri Richard, AMDs chief sales and marketing officer, in his presentation to analysts.

Click here to read more about AMDs efforts to court businesses with chips for desktops.

But winning business customers means giving corporate IT managers, whose top of mind concerns include utilizing all of the computer resources they have at hand, what they need, explained Marty Seyer, AMDs general manager for commercial business and performance computing.

Next Page: "Its about multicore."

Its About Multicore

"Its not about frequency, its about multicore. Its about how efficiently multicore has been implemented," he said.

Thus, in order to boost resource utilization, AMD will add features that support virtualization to its chips.

Virtualization technology allows a computer to be divided up to run different jobs.

It will continue to expand the chips virtualization capabilities, for example, while also working to drive up their processors performance per watt of energy consumed.

Virtualization is due from AMD in the first half of 2006, whereas the quad-core chips will start arriving in 2007.

Click here to read more about Pacifica, AMDs virtualization technology.

In the interim, AMD, which already claims an advantage in power consumption over Intel, plans to underscore its point by soon offering a Comparative Power Savings Calculator, via its Web site, where users can log on and compare what they would spend and save by choosing AMD chips over Intels.

Based on its successes so far—AMD gained market share in the third quarter across the board, according to a processor shipment survey by Mercury Research Inc.—the chip maker expects its server business to grow more than 28 percent next year, and its client business to grow more than 15 percent, the executives said.

AMD, as previously reported, advanced to 17.8 percent of shipments, up from 16.2 in the second quarter and 15.9 percent in the same quarter a year ago.

Intel ended the quarter with a smaller 80.8 percent of shipments, down from 82.3 percent in the second quarter and 82.1 percent in the third quarter of 2004, the Mercury Research report said.

As part of its expected growth, AMD also expects that the number of blade servers using its Opteron will double as well.

Companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Fujitsu Ltd. already offer such blades.

Common themes for AMD development, going forward, will be bringing mainframe functionality to the mainstream and an even greater focus on power management.

AMD will pursue its power goals by implementing tricks such as separate power management for each processor core and clock gating, which shuts down transistors not in use, the company executive said.

Meanwhile, AMD has said little about its forthcoming new processor architecture.

However, the company will arrive at quad cores one of two ways. First, it will extend its current architecture, which is already offering dual cores, to four.

Its new circuitry, which will also breed quad-core chips in the 2008 to 2009 time frame, will offer more in the way of the ability to scale upwards into big servers, company executives indicated.

Systems maker Newisys, at the Supercomputing 2005 show in Seattle this week, is demonstrating a 32-way server powered by Opteron running both Windows and Linux, according to Phil Hester, AMDs chief technology officer and the former CEO of Newisys.

Hester said it was further proof that a chip like Intels Itanium—a processor with a new architecture that Intel introduced initially as the 64-bit standard and now as the technology to compete with such RISC platforms as Sun Microsystems Inc.s SPARC and IBMs Power—is not needed.

Instead, the ability to scale Opteron to 32-way and more shows that the x86 architecture can compete in the high-end of the server market.

Thus, by the 2009 to 2010 timeframe, AMD sees itself leading in mobile and desktop as well as in servers.

"Were going to be the preeminent server supplier," Seyer said.

But Intel isnt going anywhere without a fight. The larger chip maker also intends to update its chips with virtualization features—it rolled out the first of those chips earlier this week—and to offer quad-core server chips in the form of Tigerton, a four-core Xeon due in 2007.

Intel has also stepped up its efforts to cut its chips power consumption with a new processor architecture that will result in the launch of several new dual-core chips for desktops, notebooks and servers in 2006.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Rocket Fuel