Looking beyond the launch of its quad-core Opteron microprocessor in a few weeks, Advanced Micro Devices is beginning to lay the groundwork for new server and PC processor innovations that will begin appearing in the next two years.
At a meeting with industry analysts July 26, AMD executives delved into some of the details behind the soon-to-be released "Barcelona" processor, as well as some of the new technologies its planning to introduce, including Fusion – the companys effort to incorporate the CPU and GPU on the same piece of silicon.
In the short term, AMD, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., plans to roll out its quad-core Opteron processor in August and will ramp up the release by September. Although the chip maker has been criticized for the processors initial clock speed—2.0GHz—Randy Allen, vice president of the server division, said the company would offer faster clock speeds in future releases.
In addition to the standard quad-core Opteron model, which will account for about 77 percent of all shipments, AMD will also launch an HE model—the designation stands for a processor with higher power efficiency—with a clock speed of 1.9GHz.
The company will also ship a high-performance model—SE—with a 2.3GHz clock speed later. Allen promised all three versions of Barcelona will later ship with even faster clock speeds.
After AMD revamps its lineup with its Barcelona processors, which are expected to have the greatest impact in the MP server space, the company will offer its "Budapest" quad-core processor for single-socket servers and high-end workstations.
For now, all these processors will be built on AMDs 65-nanometer manufacturing process. That will change in mid-2008, when AMD begins producing chips on its new 45-nanometer process. One of the first chips from this line will be the companys "Shanghai" processor—essentially a smaller version of the Barcelona—that will feature a larger L3 cache and better performance.
Although Intel will launch its 45-nanometer processors by the end of this year—the new family is called Penryn— AMD is hoping to stay competitive by designing both Barcelona and Shanghai to fit into the same chip sets that were created for its dual-core Opteron chips.
Looking toward 2009, AMD plans on rolling out its next generation Opteron processors, which the company is calling "Sandtiger," an eight-core processor that will offer a new core architecture, a new design called Direct Connect 2, and enhancements such as HyperTransport 3—the companys high-speed chip-to-chip interconnect technology—which will give the chip higher bandwidth and lower latency, Allen said.
On July 25, AMD detailed some additional plans to improve the memory in these third-generation Opteron processors with a new technology called the G3 Memory Extender. The G3MX will double the amount of DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules) that each CPU uses. AMD also plans on adopting DDR3 (dual data-rate 3) memory technology with this Opteron chip.
In addition to those plans, Phil Hester, AMDs chief technology officer, also delved into some new details concerning its Fusion technology and how the company was looking to combine its own technology with that of ATI, which AMD acquired in 2006 for $5.4 billion.
As part of the companys Fusion program, AMD is working on a new set of x86 processor cores called "Bulldozer," which Hester said will work in a number of products, from servers to laptops to handheld devices. On that front, the codename for the AMDs Fusion PC platform will be called "Falcon."
Hester added that its Sandtiger processor will also utilize the Bulldozer cores, which will allow the processor to scale from eight to 16 cores.
Finally, Doug Grose, who oversees the companys manufacturing, detailed some of the companys "asset lite" model, which the company hopes will cut down capital expenses following three quarters of losses. While Grose acknowledge that many of the analysts in the room had come to learn more about the new model, the company was not ready to provide full details of the program.
Grose did note that part of the new model would be a closer relationship with some of its chip partners, including IBM. AMD is hoping to share resources and facilities to develop its next generation of processors, especially those produced at 45-nanometers.
In addition to IBM, Grose would deepen its relationship with Chartered Semiconductor and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).