AMD Promises 12 Cores By 2010

Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday revealed significant updates to its server chip roadmap through 2010, including plans for a six-core processor codenamed Istanbul to be shipped in the second half of 2009 and a 12-core chip called Magny-Cours set for release in the first half of the following year.

Randy Allen, GM of AMD's server/workstation division, also briefed media Wednesday on the current state of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker's ramp of its quad-core Opteron processors to OEMs and the distribution channel. The Opteron chips formerly codenamed Barcelona have successfully undergone the B3 revision that addressed the TLB glitch that delayed volume shipments of AMD's first quad-core product late last year, Allen said, and AMD currently has more than enough supplies to meet demand from top OEM partners and its system builder channel.

"What's unprecedented is that we've seen this many OEMs putting platforms in the market at the same time," said Allen, referring to the recent spate of quad-core Opteron offerings numbering 15 in all from leading server vendors like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM, Sun and Fujitsu-Siemens. While AMD remained disappointed with last year's delays to its Barcelona rollout that culminated in the TLB problem, Allen noted that since OEM partners had already done the bulk of their testing and preparations with the earlier B2 version of the silicon, they were able to hit the ground running with server offerings once they got the B3 products from AMD.

Allen re-confirmed that AMD's next major milestone on its server roadmap will happen in the second half of this year, when the chip maker begins production of its first quad-core Opterons manufactured with the 45nm process. AMD's main x86 rival, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, introduced its first 45nm products last year and the smaller chip maker is still revving its 65nm-generation of chips only.

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AMD's first line of 45nm quad-core Opterons, codenamed Shanghai, will feature double the overall cache of the Barcelona generation based on a tripling of L3 cache to 6MB. Shanghai also introduces AMD's HyperTransport 3.0 technology for processor-to-processor communication and features other core and IPC enhancements.

Next up for AMD is its six-core "Istanbul" device, another 45nm-process chip. Like previous core additions by AMD, including the leap from dual-core to quad-core, Istanbul will slot into the same socket as its predecessors, in keeping with AMD's commitment to providing customers with "investment protection," Allen said. Istanbul will be available for configurations of 2P and above in the second half of 2009, according to the updated roadmap.

Finally, AMD takes its core count to double digits in the first half of 2010 with a 12-core server chip dubbed Magny-Cours in the language of roadmaps. That product, along with an update to its six-core line codenamed Sao Paulo that is also due in 2010, also represents a significant architectural bump in AMD's roadmap.

Magny-Cours and Sao Paulo are part of AMD's third-generation Opteron Socket G34 platform. This next generation of products features DDR3 memory, an additional HyperTransport 3.0 link, enhanced clock throttling and a purpose-built chipset, the AMD RD890.

Allen said AMD's decision to make architectural improvements to six-core devices through 2010 and beyond is due to the chip maker's belief that for "the vast majority of workloads, there is outstanding scalability on up to six cores."

"There will be more workloads that stop being scalable beyond six cores," Allen said. But the server chief also noted that because certain AMD customers with "embarrassingly parallel" workloads required 12 cores and beyond, developing such multi-core solutions still made sense for the chip maker.