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AMD engineers reveal details about the company's upcoming 45nm processor roadmap, including plans for 12-core processors

"Shanghai! Shanghai!" the reporters cry during the AMD's financial analyst day today. Despite the fact that the company will lay off nearly 5% of its work force this week, followed by another 5% next month, most employees interviewed by DailyTech continue to convey an optimistic outlook.

The next major milestone for the CPU engineers comes late this year, with the debut of 45nm Shanghai. Shanghai, for all intents and purposes, is nearly identical to the B3 stepping of Socket 1207 Opteron (Barcelona) shipping today.  However, where as Barcelona had its HyperTransport 3.0 clock generator fused off, Shanghai will once again attempt to get HT3.0 right.

Original roadmaps anticipated that HT3.0 would be used for socket-to-socket communication, but also for communication to the Southbridge controllers. Motherboard manufacturers have confirmed that this is no longer the case, and that HT3.0 will only be used for inter-CPU communication.

"Don't be disappointed, AMD is making up for it," hints one engineer.  Further conversations revealed that inter-CPU communication is going to be a big deal with the 45nm refresh.  The first breadcrumb comes with a new "native six-core" Shanghai derivative, currently codenamed Istanbul.  This processor is clearly targeted at Intel's recently announced six-core, 45nm Dunnington processor.

But sextuple-core processors have been done, or at least we'll see the first ones this year.  The real neat stuff comes a few months after, where AMD will finally ditch the "native-core" rhetoric.  Two separate reports sent to DailyTech from AMD partners indicate that Shanghai and its derivatives will also get twin-die per package treatment.  

AMD planned twin-die configurations as far back as the K8 architecture, though abandoned those efforts.  The company never explained why those processors were nixed, but just weeks later "native quad-core" became a major marketing campaign for AMD in anticipation of Barcelona.

A twin-die Istanbul processor could enable 12 cores in a single package. Each of these cores will communicate to each other via the now-enabled HT3.0 interconnect on the processor.  

The rabbit hole gets deeper.  Since each of these processors will contain a dual-channel memory controller, a single-core can emulate quad-channel memory functions by accessing the other dual-channel memory controller on the same socket.  This move is likely a preemptive strike against Intel's Nehalem tri-channel memory controller.
 
Motherboard manufacturers claim Shanghai and its many-core derivatives will be backwards compatible with existing Socket 1207 motherboards.  However, processor-to-processor communication will downgrade to lower HyperTransport frequencies on these older motherboards. The newest 1207+ motherboards will officially support the HyperTransport 3.0 frequencies.

Shanghai is currently taped out and running Windows at AMD.


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Is it just me, or...
By Motoman on 4/18/2008 1:42:37 PM , Rating: -1
...does it look like AMD and Intel both have taken the easy way out? By which I mean neither could figure out a way of making a CPU faster, so they starting packing extra cores on instead, since that was something they could figure out.

Dual-core...fine. I can multi-task a bit, and some of the apps that normal people use can take advantage of 2 cores.

Tri-core...ok. You're pushing it a bit, I think, but maybe that 3rd core will be slightly useful.

Quad-core...why? No normal person multi-tasks that much, and no applications that normal people use can take advantage of 4 cores. In all cases, normal people are better off with 1 or 2 3Ghz cores than 4 2Ghz cores.

6-core...just stop. Even worse than quad-core. Stop giving us extra cores that will do precisely squat for normal people .

8-core? 12-core? <picks up megaphone> "Your attention please. I would like to alert everyone that the Emperor is wearing no clothes."

Now, let me be clear - for servers, and very select specialized use, multi-core CPUs make all the sense in the world. Web servers, RDBMS servers, HTPC, professional rendering programs, etc. I'm talking about normal people - the 99% of all PC owners in the world. You know... normal people who want a PC to play games, do email, surf the web, and occasionally do a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet. Large numbers of cores do explicitly nothing for normal people . And frankly, because of the near-purely sequential nature of what normal people do on their PCs, there is little chance that large numbers of cores will ever be useful (barring some technomagic that allows a single task to be executed on multiple cores that I currently can't fathom) to normal people .

So, can we stop pretending that selling a 12-core PC at Best Buy is some kind of amazing advancement that's going to enhance the buyer's computing experience? Can we drop the pretense that large numbers of cores are important to consumers, and try to focus back on the idea of making a small number of cores faster and/or more efficient? How about we focus on single, dual, and maybe tri-core CPUs...at worst, quad-core if you insist. These are the CPUs that will be useful to normal people , and the only way to make them better is to increase their clockspeed on existing designs, or make new designs that are inherently more efficient. More cores categorically does not help. So stop.




RE: Is it just me, or...
By prenox on 4/18/2008 3:54:13 PM , Rating: 2
Having to re-encode just about every video for my PSP I do use all 4 cores. I guess if I had an Ipod or a Zune I would have to re-encode the videos for them too.

I think that are alot of 'normal' people out there that do transfer videos to their players.


RE: Is it just me, or...
By Motoman on 4/18/2008 6:36:52 PM , Rating: 1
I disagree. I know large numbers of people with PSPs...and none of them use them for watching videos at all - except for a few movies they were gullible enough to buy on UMD.

Re-encoding video formats is most definitely not a typical user activity.


RE: Is it just me, or...
By just4U on 4/21/2008 3:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
What about super computers that have tons of cores? Basically that's all their doing turning our desktops into miniture versions of that. I am sure that they make use of such machines. Hell, I'd love to see solitaire on one!

Ok kidding about that last part... but even so!


RE: Is it just me, or...
By jRaskell on 4/24/2008 2:28:13 PM , Rating: 2
This recent trend of increasing the total number of cores is only going to continue, and it will soon require the software development world to step back and completely rethink their entire software design philosophies and develop frameworks that scale very well with parallel processing architectures.

forget about "multi-tasking". It's entirely possible to take advantage of multiple cores for a single task. Similar to the lines of 1 man can dig a ditch in 8 hours, 2 can dig it in 4 hours, and 8 can dig it in an hour. One task, but multiple resources working to complete it quicker. The problem is just that current Operating System and many Application architectures aren't designed to automatically take advantage of multiple cores to complete a single task.

When this is done properly , then processing intensive applications suchs as games will automatically scale rather nicely as the number of available cores increases. It's a chicken and egg scenario though. Software Developers aren't going to allocate large amounts of resources to completely redesigning their application frameworks until there's a large number of computers in their consumers hands that will take advantage of it.

The graphics market made this shift several years ago, and the general purpose CPU market is still in it's transition phases (and admittedly will be a more complicated and time-consuming shift to make).

quote:
No normal person multi-tasks that much, and no applications that normal people use can take advantage of 4 cores.


The first part of your statement there is complete correct. The second half, only partially correct today, but at some point in the future, it will be completely false.


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