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Tuesday, August 24, 2010
AMD Details Bulldozer and Bobcat Core Designs

Today at HOT CHIPS 22, AMD will reveal new details on its two next-generation x86 processor core implementations, including AMD's approach to high-performance, multi-threaded computing, as well as a sub-one-watt capable low-power design.

The two new designs, codenamed "Bulldozer" for high-performance PC and server markets, and "Bobcat" for low-power notebook and small form-factor desktop markets, were designed from the ground-up to address specific requirements and compute workloads. The new cores are central to AMD?s future roadmap, including the AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) products and AMD?s new high-performance server and client CPUs.

"With CPUs and APUs built from these core implementations, we expect our customers to deliver a new wave of innovative PC form factors and high-performance computing experiences."

"In my opinion, Bulldozer and Bobcat are not only two of the greatest technical achievements in AMD?s rich history, but two of the most important for the industry as well," said Chekib Akrout, senior vice president and general manager, AMD Technology Development. "With CPUs and APUs built from these core implementations, we expect our customers to deliver a new wave of innovative PC form factors and high-performance computing experiences."

At HOT CHIPS 22, Brad Burgess, AMD Fellow and chief architect of Bobcat, and Mike Butler, AMD Fellow and chief architect of Bulldozer, will each present in the "New Processor Architectures" session. The x86 architecture lies at the very heart of computing, and AMD has continuously evolved and improved its core designs.

"Attacking both high-performance and low-power markets simultaneously with two brand new architectures is an impressive accomplishment that serves notice to the industry that innovation is alive and well inside AMD," observed Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64.

Highlights of the new cores include:


* An innovative approach to multithreaded compute performance that balances dedicated and shared compute resources to provide a highly compact, high core count design that is easily replicated on a chip for performance scaling
* New x86 instruction support (SSE4.1, SSE4.2, AVX, and XOP including 4-operand FMAC)
* Advanced power management features
* Manufactured on advanced 32nm process technology


* Sub-one-watt capable operation
* Out-of-order instruction execution for higher performance
* Estimated 90 percent of today?s mainstream PC performance in half the area
* Core power gating and a microarchitecture optimized for low power
* Highly synthesizeable design that moves easily across manufacturing technologies

John Fruehe, Director of Product Marketing for Server/Workstation products at AMD, is also providing some additional information about the new platforms at AMD's blog.

Although he avoids making direct comparison with Intel's offerings, he compares AMD's new platforms.

"One of the most striking and easy comparisons to make is the pure core count. In my experience, customers today tend to use the "one VM per core" rule of thumb. In today?s world that means up to 24 VMs for a 2P AMD Opteron 6100 Series platform (12 cores per processor x 2 processors = 24 cores = 24 VMs), and up to 32 VMs for a 16-core, "Bulldozer"-based 2P "Interlagos" system. Or you can run several robust multi-core VMs on a server; for example, you could run up to eight VMs on an "Interlagos" system, each with 4 vCPUs," he says.

Although AMD is not be releasing technical details yet, some of the new features include making the caches more efficient, preserving live migration compatibility between the cores, and more effectively managing changes to virtual machines such that hypervisor interactions are limited, Fruehe added.

In addition to a greater number of cores, the upcoming "Bulldozer" platform will feature L2 cache that will be shared between integer cores. So for those of AMD's customers pinning VMs to cores, they have the ability to build a 2P VM, and tie it to two cores that share a common L2 cache. This can help cut down on some of the cache latency as the VM?s two cores have all of the adjacent shared cache lines in a single location.

There will also be some significant enhancements to AMD's memory controller. This is the first major memory controller overhaul since the introduction of the Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor back in 2007. Back then, everyone was looking at virtualization, but not as many were deploying it. These new memory controller enhancements were designed with virtualization in mind so that there are more optimizations around the memory handling for virtualization, he added.

Regarding the support for Hyper V and older OS?s, Fruehe said: " We plan to support Hyper V in the future, just as we do today. In terms of older OS?s ? there will be some limitations mainly because older OS?s were developed at a time when processors had fewer cores and supported less memory. An older OS can always be run as guest OS on a virtualized server. AMD collaborates with Microsoft to ensure that new processors are well supported by a range of OS versions. We will publish more info as we approach launch."

AMD's executive also clarified that the upcoming "Ontario" processor will be based on the "Bobcat" core, which has a different core architecture than "Bulldozer." "There have been some that have made the assumption that a Bobcat was just a scaled down "Bulldozer", but they are, in fact, different. I?m sure that between the two there are similarities and some small sub-components that are shared, but you won?t see the modular design of "Bulldozer" in "Bobcat," " he added.

There will be also a Turbo CORE feature for "Bulldozer", but there will be some improvements from what you see in "Thuban" (our 6-core AMD Phenom processor). There are some enhancements to give it more "turbo". This will be the first introduction of the Turbo CORE technology in the server processors.

"We expect that this will translate into a big boost in performance when using single threaded applications, and there should be some interesting capabilities for heavier workloads as well. We?re pretty excited about how this will be implemented with "Bulldozer", but the specifics of how this is implemented and the expected performance gains will not be disclosed until launch," he added.

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