Many fondly recall the megahertz race -- the 90s phenomena in which Advanced Micro Devices and Intel raced to have the highest-clocked processor. Over time, designers realized such a blind race was foolish, and that it was conceding far too much in efficiency and heat. Now a similar race is heating up over the number of cores in a desktop processor, but only time will tell whether the race is the path of good design, or another blind charge.
Intel already has a four-core 45 nm desktop processor (Nehalem/i7) and a six-core server processor (Xeon) on the market. It plans to roll out an eight-core server processor (Xeon) in Q4 2009.
However, it may fall behind in the core race (though still presumably ahead in die-shrinks) if AMD is able to deliver on its planned release schedule. AMD plans to release its six-core 45 nm processor, codenamed Istanbul in June. The chip, like Intel's 6-core beast, is geared for the server market.
But that's far from AMD's biggest news. AMD has announced plans to beat Intel to 12 cores, releasing both 8 and 12 core processors, codenamed Magny-Cours, in Q1 2010. It has also announced that it will in 2011 roll out its 32 nm Bulldozer core, which will feature up to 16 cores, running on the new Sandtiger architecture. In short -- AMD plans to beat Intel in the core race.
Patrick Patla, an AMD vice president and general manager of its server unit states, "We are not ducking performance. We want to do top-line performance with bottom-line efficiency."
Intel, meanwhile, remains confident that it can deliver equivalent performance with fewer cores via Hyper Threading. Like NVIDIA, Intel is pursuing a slightly more monolithic design with fewer, but stronger processor cores. Intel spokesman Nick Knupffer states, "We are confident we will stay far ahead on performance--and with fewer cores--do so in a more cost-effective, manufacturing-friendly manner. This will be the first time in history where less is more."
Even if AMD can beat Intel in performance, it will still be in dire financial straits until it can translate that performance into sales. AMD took another big loss in its recently reported fiscal quarter, just the latest in several years mostly in the red.