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A wounded AMD looks to release its first 12 core processor in Q1 2010

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. 

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RE: Just as pointless as the mhz war
By kkwst2 on 4/23/2009 1:30:49 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe. I think the real lesson is that it's competition that spurs innovation in the marketplace.

But it probably wasn't wasted. We learned a lot about scaling frequencies and what doesn't work. Hyperthreading was developed then, even if it's current implementation is not exactly the same, I'm sure they're leveraging that experience.

Going back to things that worked well in the past is not that ironic, in fact it's pretty expected. It's part of the learning process. It's hard to learn without making mistakes and having to back up sometimes.

Now, certainly Intel stayed with the Netburst architecture too long, probably fueled by non-technological forces. But it doesn't make that period wasted.

Let's just hope that AMD stays competitive enough to keep Intel pushing the envelope. For my modeling applications, the difference in performance between the previous generation Xeon and Nehalem is quite remarkable.

RE: Just as pointless as the mhz war
By 16nm on 4/25/2009 10:11:22 AM , Rating: 2
No, I think the lesson is that when AMD had the opportunity to increase capacity to meet the high demand for their chips and to better compete against Intel, they should have taken it instead of buying a low profit graphics hardware company. The ATI purchase could have waited. Intel obviously couldn't have.

RE: Just as pointless as the mhz war
By kkwst2 on 4/26/2009 8:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
Except that has nothing to do with the conversation, which was on innovation and scaling, not on business decisions.

That being said, their window was pretty tight. You can't ramp capacity overnight. By the time they ramped up, the window would have almost been closed and they would have been sitting on even more overhead than they have.

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