AMD Opens Up Road Map for PCs, Servers

At AMD's annual analyst day event, officials gave analysts and reporters a view of the chip maker's road map going into 2011, when AMD will introduce its first Fusion CPU/GPU processors, called APUs. AMD officials also shed light on the next-generation Opteron server processors, due out in the first half of 2010.

Advanced Micro Devices will continue bringing its computing and graphics capabilities into closer alignment as it leads up to its first Fusion processor in 2011, according to company officials.

At its annual analyst day Nov. 11, AMD officials gave analysts and reporters a look at the company's product road map over the next two years, with a focus on the Fusion strategy, which calls for putting CPU and GPU capabilities on a single die.

"Increasingly, it's about ... tighter integration of graphics with the CPU," AMD President and CEO Dirk Meyer said.

Both AMD and rival Intel are bringing greater graphics capabilities to their chips. Intel in 2010 will offer on-chip graphics with its "Clarkdale" and "Arrandale" offerings, and later in 2010 will have on-die graphics with "Sandy Bridge."

AMD is working to make use of the technology it got through the ATI acquisition in 2006, and will introduce its first Fusion APUs, or accelerated processing units, in 2011.

Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager for AMD's products group, said trends in the industry are increasing demand for GPUs in more mainstream computing arenas, and new operating systems from Apple and Microsoft are being designed with greater graphics capabilities.

"Suddenly, that GPU is for more than just gaming," Bergman said.

Included in the releases in 2011 will be the 32-nanometer "Llano" processor on the "Sabine" platform for mainstream notebooks and desktop PCs. For ultrathin notebooks, AMD will offer the "Brazos" platform, with the "Ontario" processor. They will support the DirectX 11 graphics technology.

The new APUs will feature new processing cores-"Bulldozer" for mainstream and higher-end systems, and "Bobcat" for lower-end machines.

Meyer said the industry shouldn't look at the APUs as CPUs with graphics capabilities, but instead as a new architecture.

AMD is readying a host of products for 2010, as well. The "Danube" platform for mainstream notebooks will include AMD's first quad-core chip for mobile devices, while the "Nile" platform will be for ultrathin notebooks. Both are scheduled for release in the first half of the year. For desktop enthusiasts, the "Leo" platform will offer a six-core chip.

In a research note after the analyst day event, Hans Mosesmann, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates Equity Research, said AMD's notebook strategy made some sense.

"We believe AMD has some interesting potential here, but with a truly optimized product for the netbook market (over 20 percent of this market) not coming out until 2011, AMD's momentum is likely to be muted in 2010," Mosesmann wrote.

He also said it was about time for AMD to push GPUs in more general computing environments.

"Interestingly, AMD is now starting to preach the gospel of GPUs in 'computing' applications (Nvidia has done the missionary work for years), which suggests that the CPU-side of AMD is seeing the light," Mosesmann wrote.

On the Opteron server chip side, AMD is readying its "Maranello" platform, with the "Magny-Cours" chips bearing from eight to 12 cores. The Maranello platform-aka the Opteron 6000 Series line-will offer four memory channels, one more than Intel's "Nehalem" architecture.

In an interview the day before the analyst event, John Fruehe, director of Opteron product marketing for AMD, said Intel had done a good job jumping over Opteron by adding a third memory channel to Nehalem. However, with the new offerings in 2010, that will change, he said.

AMD's Opteron 4000 Series platform-code-named San Marino (for value) and Adelaide (for ultralow power)-will offer four to six cores and two memory channels, and will be aimed more at the one-socket server space, though they also will be able to run in two-socket systems. The 4000 Series targets the Web and cloud computing spaces, where power efficiency and cost are key factors, Fruehe said.