It always seems that the worse a company does, the more information it divulges. We saw this behavior with Intel at the end of the Pentium 4 era, and we’re definitely seeing it now with AMD. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it sure makes the industry a lot more exciting to talk about.Today’s disclosures are many of the things we alluded to in our last article about AMD’s future, what we called The Road Ahead. If you were waiting for us to fill in the blanks, this article will do just that.
Before getting into the new stuff, AMD gave us a brief update on Barcelona, whose launch is now hopefully less than a month away.
Barcelona is the second CPU to plug into what AMD is calling its 2nd generation Opteron platform, it will have one more socket-compatible successor before the platform is retired:
The first Barcelona processors available will be the HE (Energy Efficient) and standard performance CPUs, running at speeds of 2.0GHz or lower at launch:
In Q4 of this year AMD will introduce the SE (High Performance) Barcelona parts, running at 2.3GHz and above.
AMD is doing its best to sugar coat the low clock speed launch by saying that it’s addressing the majority of the market at these clocks, but the fact of the matter is that AMD would be singing a different tune if it was able to achieve higher clock speeds at launch.
Shanghai: What Immediately Follows Barcelona
In the second half of 2008, AMD will introduce its first 45nm processor under the codename Shanghai.
Shanghai will be an evolutionary step above Barcelona, adding a larger L3 cache and some IPC enhancements at both the core and North Bridge levels. Shanghai will keep the same 512KB L2 cache per core of Barcelona, but grow the shared L3 cache from 2MB to a full 6MB. Note that this is still less cache than Penryn will offer in its quad-core configurations, but with AMD’s integrated memory controller, larger caches aren’t as necessary.
Shanghai, like Barcelona, is targeted at the server market. There will be a desktop variant also introduced in the second half of 2008 with similar specs. Shanghai and its desktop equivalent will be socket-compatible with Barcelona/Phenom motherboards.
AMD has also indicated that Shanghai will begin AMD’s transition to DDR3 on the desktop, indicating that the desktop version may be available in two different sockets: AM2 for DDR2 support, and AM3 for DDR3 support. In the first half of 2009, Sandtiger will follow Shanghai in the server space with a brand new architecture (we’ll talk about this core shortly). Sandtiger will be exclusively DDR3 and will definitely require a new platform, and just like Shanghai there will be a desktop variant of Sandtiger as well.
Intel : tick-tock :: AMD : Pipe?
One thing we’ve been waiting to hear from AMD is how it would compete with Intel’s tick-tock cadence of microprocessor releases. To recap, Intel’s new model shows that every two years it will introduce a new microprocessor architecture, and on the alternate year in between it will introduce a new manufacturing process on the existing architecture.
Today, AMD confirmed that it, too, would be releasing a new microprocessor architecture every two years, and a new manufacturing process on the alternate years. AMD attempted to go one step further and tie platform technology to the cadence as well; confirming that every two years the platform would change, alongside the microprocessor architecture, to support new features as they are available. It’s a minor distinction but the main point is that AMD is committed to Intel’s 2-year processor cycle.
Oh, and the acronym is horrible guys.
In our AMD: The Road Ahead article we looked at AMD’s modular approach to CPU design going forward:
AMD has now attached a marketing name to its modular core approach: M-Space:
The principle is still the same; these discrete blocks within a microprocessor can be things like GPU cores, CPU cores, memory controllers, specialized hardware, etc… There’s nothing really new here, we just wanted to make sure you were up to date with the latest and greatest in AMD marketing so you don’t get confused.
The next part however, we can’t guarantee that it won’t confuse you.
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