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Thread: AMD news




  1. #1
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    AMD design will kill competition
    Analysis Sun's choice of Opteron rings death knell for non-x86 CPUs


    The x86 architechture is soon to be pretty much the only game in town. It was bound to happen. In Intel's perfect world, everybody would be using its processor architecture. And that corporate dream is being realised right now, though not in the way Intel might have hoped. It's going to have to share the credit with arch-rival AMD.
    It all comes down to 64bit computing. Intel tried to stave off the market's hunger for a cheap 64bit processor, at least until it was ready to produce cut-down versions of the Itanium, but the path was set by IBM and Intel many years ago. Intel failed to pay enough attention to its own history; the lessons were there in the move from 16 to 32bit.

    History repeating itself
    In 1981 IBM announced the 5150 PC. It was the machine set to revolutionise business computing but it had a major design flaw. For some inexplicable reason IBM chose to use the 8088 processor in that first PC. It was a choice that bordered on the bizarre. The 8088 was the bottom of the line of the 8086 series of processors from Intel and most experts agreed it was one of the worst processor designs on the market. Its memory management has been described as "brain damaged" and register allocation for data was like a game of Russian roulette.

    These days Intel has a reputation as a company with brains and savvy, back in the early eighties it was a different story, especially when it came to the 8086 series. To give you an idea of just how bad things were, you need only look at the 80286. You could switch modes on it to overcome some of the brain damage of the 8086. Unfortunately, once you switched modes, there was no instruction to let you switch back again. That meant all of your old programs would have stopped working if you used the new mode. Luckily for Intel, this example of its architectural skill was supplemented by an example of its implementation skill: there was a bug in 80286 that meant you could switch the mode back in software. That bug was so important and used so often by programmers that Intel had to preserve it in future processors for compatibility.

    Now it might seem that 8086 series had nothing going for it at all. Here was a 16bit processor that was little more than a kludged up 8bit processor and so bad that almost nobody loved it. But that turned out to be an advantage. Where programmers on competing processors were happy to use assembly language, getting anywhere with an 8086 meant a decent compiler was essential. Compiler technology came on in leaps and bounds.

    Today's world
    These days the x86 architecture has taken over. Thanks, in part at least, to good compilers being available, programmers didn't have to worry too much about the dreadful architecture underneath the bonnet of a PC. The x86 has become the most common desktop processor in the world. It has banished many other, far superior, processor designs through sheer clout of numbers. And the market is moving relentlessly towards the PC as its only architecture.

    Where a few years ago buying a workstation meant hunting down the likes of Sun, Silicon Graphics, HP or DEC, these days it's rare to find a buyer who doesn't investigate whether the job can be done on a PC. It's simple economics: why pay ten grand when a PC can probably do the job for two or three?

    The trouble is, for many applications in the workstation world, you need 64bit. So the PC was out of the question until AMD introduced AMD64. It's a technology that was originally called x86-64. Where the Intel 80386 took the old 16bit 8086 architecture and made it 32bit, AMD64 pushes it the next step onwards.

    Where Intel had hoped that its Itanium technology would finally rid it of the technically rather embarrassing x86, AMD has come along and given the nasty old throwback another decade of life.

    Big tin
    The biggest obstacle to the PC taking over completely has been the top end of the market, the big tin. Until recently you would have had to start buying specialist equipment if you wanted a supercomputer. Then came PC clusters. They weren't ideal; trying to get a bunch of 32bit processors to do what is at least a 64bit job is obviously less than optimal. But clustering works and it's cheap.

    When AMD launched the Opteron, it made cheap clusters of 64bit machines a real possibility. The writing is now on the wall for pretty much every other 64bit processor, with the possible exception of IBM's Power series.

    That Sun has picked up the Opteron shows that the firm has realised where the market is going. SPARC might well be a good processor but, in the long run, it's had it. Getting a firm to cough up for a five thousand dollar CPU is going to be difficult when there is an Opteron that's just as fast available for a fifth of that price. Sun is playing the game reluctantly, it doesn't want to lose SPARC, but the processor is effectively already dead.

    The same goes for Itanium. It doesn't really matter how good the Itanium is, big tin has now been commoditised by AMD. HP and Intel killed the Alpha processor but there are many who would argue that Alpha never came close to its potential anyway. MIPS steadily lost mindshare at the same time as Silicon Graphics and PA-RISC was effectively killed by HP.

    There are those who will argue that big tin will always need specialist processors, that there are some tasks that clustered PCs simply aren't cut out for. That might be true but it's unlikely. Ten years ago nobody would have believed that Cray would be selling clustered PCs but, now that the Opteron is here, that's exactly what Cray is doing. It's cheaper for the customer, lower risk and far easier to repair if something goes wrong. It might not be a perfect supercomputer, exactly matched to the job at hand, but it's far more flexible.

    Small fry
    The only thing that stands in the way of x86 architecture becoming truly pervasive is the needs of the mobile market. Believe it or not, despite all of the millions of PCs sold, x86 is not the world's most popular processor architecture. That accolade falls to a design first put together by a few guys at a small firm in Cambridge, England - the ARM processor architecture.

    ARM processors appear in all kinds of things but its most notable success must be in the mobile phone. It also appears in printers, PDAs and just about anything else that needs processing power. Its big advantages over the PC architecture are that it needs very little power and very little support circuitry. The x86 simply cannot do what the ARM manages.

    Conclusion
    So what we have is a situation where x86 desktop processors are likely to take over the whole desktop and above markets. A 64bit x86 is a long way from being the perfect processor; it's a kludged 64bit architecture built on a kludged 32bit architecture built on a kludged 16bit architecture that was designed to be compatible with the 8bit 8080. Hardly the best choice.

    But economy of scale means that it will win. Intel is having to prepare a 64bit x86 processor. It had no choice; big customers like Dell will have been breathing down its neck for years over the AMD64. It's certainly no coincidence that Dell was dropping big hints about an Intel 64bit x86 processor a short while ago; Dell is feeling the pinch of customers wanting 64bit PC compatible machines and not being able to supply those needs.

    What's more, Intel is stuck with using AMD's design because so much has already been done for it. Microsoft has an AMD64 version of Windows well into beta and it's not likely to take any lip from Intel about slightly different versions - Microsoft needs this version of Windows to be thoroughly beta tested by thousands of users before it is released and they can only do that on AMD processors so Intel will have to toe the line. Then there is all of the AMD64 work done on Linux, Intel wouldn't be too popular if it caused a whole lot of rework. Essentially, Intel has to produce something that is fully AMD64 compatible or it will be making the biggest marketing blunder in its history.

    The next decade is likely to see the AMD64 based PC become almost omnipresent. On everything except mobile devices, it fits every need. The grand shake out of other processors has already begun but now the pace will accelerate. In many ways it will be sad to see so many far nicer architectures disappear. At least there will be less fundamental change in the industry a decade from now, the x86-128 will be much less of an upset.

    The Inquirer

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    AMD gets EU Commission approval for Fab 36 investment
    Advanced Micro Devices secures 545 million grant


    Advanced Micro Devices notified about the European Union Commission’s approval of investment aid for its next-generation microprocessor wafer facility, AMD Fab 36, in Dresden, Germany.

    The Federal Republic of Germany and the Free State of Saxony are providing investment allowances and investment grants of up to approximately €545 million – the highest benefit possible under the grants and subsidy program.

    “We greatly appreciate the EU Commission’s decision in favor of AMD. With this approval, our new project has passed a key financial milestone as we begin the process of building, equipping and ramping the new fab. With the support of the EU and Saxony, AMD Fab 36 will build upon our outstanding track record in Dresden with AMD Fab 30 and further extend AMD’s leadership in manufacturing and technology,” said Bob Rivet, chief financial officer.

    AMD broke ground on its 300mm manufacturing facility on November 20, 2003. The new facility, named AMD Fab 36, is part of AMD Fab 36 LLC & Co. KG and is being built in Dresden, Germany, adjacent to AMD Fab 30.

    The Fab36 will cost about $2.4 billion in total. AMD gets $1.5 billion as help, which is $500 million as subsidies, grants, etc, $700 million is a loan and remaining $300 as an equity from 2 partners - Saxony and some European investors. The rest $900 million are expected to come from AMD itself.

    AMD projects the building to be completed in late 2004. The company will start the installation of equipment just before the end of 2004 and plans to start qualifications of the factory in the late 1H 2005. AMD Fab 36 is expected to be in volume production in 2006. The new facility will employ roughly 1000 people.

    Xbit

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    AMD Socket 939

    <img src="http://images.tweaktown.com/weta/amd/socket939.jpg">

    AmdBoard has snagged the first photo of AMD's upcoming Socket 939!

    Warp2Search

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    Re-marked AMD chips seized in Asia
    They may be in Europe too


    The Philippines Inquirer said that raids in a number of locations in the country yielded a collection of re-marked AMD microprocessors, and the likelihood is there's more not only in Asia but in Europe.
    Earlier this week, we heard from a source here in the UK that a number of re-marked AMD microprocessors were being sold in retail, but a representative of the firm said that he had no knowledge of such fakes.

    The AMD rep said that while the firm had no objection to individuals overclocking their own processor, large scale re-marking would be stamped on, and hard.

    The Philipines Inquirer said that last month simultaneous raids were carried out both in Asia and in Europe, with counterfeits circulating in the marketplace.

    The Inquirer

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    Only 10,000 Athlon 64 939s expected in Q2
    Prepare to hold your breath


    For all of you that have been expecting Athlon 64 939 CPUs for a long time, this cannot be good news. It appears that AMD is going to ship only 10,000 of these CPUs, and that will definitely make them rare things.
    Not many people will jump on the bandwagon with board designs, since it does not makes much sense to do all this R&D stuff for early Q2 and you can most definitely expect more of these CPUs in Q3.

    AMD has its reasons, we are sure since these 939 babies should be very competitive with dual channel DDR memory controllers.

    It seems that there will be some motherboards in early Q2 that supports these nice CPUs but all motherboard manufacturers will have to fight in a market where there are only 10K CPUs.

    Via and Nvidia might have just enough chipsets for 939 motherboards but it would not make much sense to make many of these boards since you could easily end up with much more motherboards than CPUs.

    So even in Q2, the main focus still goes to socket 754 whether you like it or not. Athlon 939 will unfortunately remain a rare bird in Q2.

    The Inquirer

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    AMD to unleash Athlon 64 FX-55 processor in May?
    AMD's most powerful 2004 chip to show up in Q2?


    Advanced Micro Devices is grouping its forces to attack its arch-rival Intel Corporation with new and powerful processors about a quarter earlier than it originally planned.

    AnandTech reports that according to a recent roadmap, AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 clocked at 2.40GHz processors will come out this month, while the Athlon 64 FX-55 chip with 2.60GHz frequency will show up as early as in May. The latter microprocessor was originally scheduled for Q4 2004, but is reported to be unleashed in the late Q2 2004.

    AMD Athlon FX microprocessors are positioned as top of the line offerings from Advanced Micro Devices. While the architecture of the Athlon 64 FX is the same compared to the Athlon 64, e.g. the chips can execute the same software, including 64-bit software, the chips feature large 1MB level-two cache as well as dual-channel memory controller, bringing some additional speed bumps for the chips that cost above $700.

    AMD Athlon 64 FX microprocessors are going to be available in two types of packages: 940-pin and 939-pin. The former requires registered memory modules, while the latter is expected to work with typical unbuffered DIMMs. AMD Athlon 64 processors are going to exist in two versions as well: Socket 939 and Socket 754. Chips in 939-pin packaging feature dual-channel memory controller, but only 512KB of L2 cache, processors in 754-pin packaging feature single-channel memory controller and 512KB or 1MB L2 cache.

    Apparently, Athlon 64 3700+ (2.40GHz) for Socket 939 has been renamed to Athlon 64 3800+, while the Athlon 64 3400+ (2.20GHz) for Socket 939 is now called Athlon 64 3500+. Both 939-pin chips will emerge in May. Athlon 64 3700+ (1MB L2, single-channel memory controller) for Socket 754 platform will be available in April. Additionally, we may see the 754-pin Athlon 64 2800+ chip later in the quarter.

    The forthcoming AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 (2.60GHz) and AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (2.40GHz) will be AMD’s top offerings this year, according to the report. The AMD Athlon 64 4000+ and AMD Athlon 64 4200+ are moved into the 2005. While the both top offerings from AMD will certainly be able to successfully compete against the Intel Pentium 4 3.80GHz, will they be as fast as the Pentium 4 4.00GHz in the fourth quarter of the year?

    Xbit

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