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Giuseppe Amato gives another overview on the high points of AMD's next-generation CPU architecture

This article was first published in German on

Yesterday, AMD held a press presentation in Munich, Germany to update journalists about its upcoming K10 processor. AMD's Giuseppe Amato, Technical Director Sales and Marketing EMEA, had a few minutes to talk about the architecture at length. This architecture, previously dubbed K8L by Henri Richard -- now publically called K10 -- is scheduled to be AMD's first monolithic quad-core design.

The integrated memory controller (IMC) will get a few new features in the K10 core. When utilizing multiple memory modules, along with proper BIOS implementation and mainboard routing, the IMC can access memory in 64-bit channels (72-bit if you use ECC). This way it is possible to read and write data simultaneously, or improve efficiency for irregular access patterns which increasingly occur in a quad-core environment. This feature is available on AM2+ and F+ boards; on "old“ socket AM2 and F boards the usual 128-bit dual-channel mode is available.

Due to split power planes, the IMC can be clocked down independently of the CPU cores, along with reduced voltage. This also enables CPU overclocking without touching the memory frequency, something that may appeal to enthusiasts. These features are again dependent on Socket AM2+ and F+ platforms.

Amato explained how the quad-core design benefits from the internal crossbar switch the backbone of communication inside the K10 CPU. With Intel's current quad-core design there are cases where data needs to travel over the FSB -- in AMDs case all inter-CPU communication takes place on-die.

The crossbar switch of the K10 core is already prepared for up to 8 cores, Amato boasted. Amato wouldn't give even a vague timeframe for market availability of such a CPU, though he indicated the company is prepared for whatever the market demands. Amato made clear that octo-core is far away in the future – Shanghai will not get 8 cores.

K10 will introduce a shared L3 cache while the individual cores have dedicated L1 and L2 caches. As long as requested data lies in L1, it can be directly loaded. This also works if the data lies in the L1 cache of another core, in which case the communication works via the crossbar switch. In case requested data resides in the L2 cache, it will be loaded to L1 and then invalidated in L2 as AMD has an exclusive cache design. The L3 Cache, however, is not exclusive, but allows for a shared bit to be set. If a core loads data marked as shared, it will reside in the L3 cache and can be fetched by other cores as well.

Amato also mentioned an array of power saving measures which, in sum, allow AMD to deliver a quad-core CPU in the same thermal envelope as today’s dual-core CPUs.

K10 adds the capability of independently clocking all the CPU cores. In current K8 processors (and Intel's Core 2 generation), all cores are clocked at the same level all the time -- the P-state can only be changed synchronously. In case of a compute-intensive single-threaded process, all cores must run on the highest level P-state. On K10-based CPUs, the idle cores could be switched to the lowest P-state, while others are in different states, depending on load.

This feature could possibly be abused by overclockers to overclock a single core above the specified levels. Amato clarified that AMD doesn't endorse overclocking, but acknowledges there are people interested in that. In a warranty case, AMD could detect PLL programmings out of spec which would deny the warranty. The new cores, however, have new thermal sensors, to improve overheating protection.

Amato closed the session by mentioning Shanghai as a successor to Barcelona in the server space for 2008. Shanghai will be an improved quad-core architecture, which is supposed to be socket-compatible with current Socket F platforms. Roadmaps available to DailyTech revealed Shanghai is a 45nm quad-core CPU featuring 6MB of L3 Cache.

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RE: A little pleased
By othercents on 4/16/2007 10:52:24 AM , Rating: 2
IT Managers don't follow market trends and won't wait for a processor in hopes that it will be better than the one they get now. Most IT Managers (myself included) strictly buy Intel with disregard to performance numbers. I do this because it is easier to manage. When you buy 25 computers a month it is more important to get reliable computers that can be installed quickly. I might wait up to 2 weeks if I think the price will drop, but thats all.

It is possible that I might look at AMD after the new processors come out, but that is dependent on how quickly DELL starts rolling out computers with the new hardware and what the price is going to be since Intel is dropping theirs. Plus you also have to think twice about switching to AMD in July since Intel is making die changes in December. If Intel becomes better in December then I will have 125 computers that are different than everyone else.

I am also concerned about the AMD availability when the K10 comes out. We might not see computers from our vendor until late Q3 or even Q4.


RE: A little pleased
By GlassHouse69 on 4/16/2007 12:46:21 PM , Rating: 4

everyone likes to seem like a type A aggressive meat market guido who responds to these things.

You buy 25 a month. I do not think you are a high volume purchaser. Also, it seems you really dont need whatever is cutting edge, just what gets the job done. Also, you are not looking forward to new technologies, just whatever dell is offering. Also, you arent buying them, just ordering them for a company. Your company probably has no clue what is better and has no real need for the best versus decent. I would guess that like your company, most companies do not have scientific calculation needs, huge server workload needs, etc etc.

the k10 is driven by gamers and people who run demanding servers. When either of these two REALLY SMALL groups of people say a chip is crap, the stock price plummets and the middle of the road users reject the chip.

RE: A little pleased
By PrezWeezy on 4/16/2007 4:01:37 PM , Rating: 1
I would disagree with you there. People don't listen to the gamers. They might pay some attention to what is being said about servers but the market doesn't rely on gamers to tell them what chip is better. They rely on IT managers. Whatever the IT guy recomends at work, people will buy for home assuming it is within their price point. I can't tell you how many people ask me what to buy.

Actually 25 a month is a substantial number of PC's. And it doesn't matter where the PC's are being acquired, what matters is that they are being installed on a regular basis. And I would agree with OtherCents, switching platforms causes problems. It is much easier if everyone is on the same platform.

RE: A little pleased
By GlassHouse69 on 4/17/2007 2:59:15 AM , Rating: 1
IT managers who do not have computers as a hobby do not rely on their own input in purchasing equipment. They will go to their staff who have an opinion either way. Those people have been building AMD systems for several years now at home. They like AMD and know it will be an impressive decision if they flip their blades/pc's/workstations to an AMD. Well, this was so until the c2d era that began last summer.

Do not underestimate the tech geek in a cubicle when it comes time for opinions. Apple would have been chucked out long ago if it wasnt for the creative/tech geek combo guy in his 30's and 40's.

RE: A little pleased
By PrezWeezy on 4/19/2007 5:57:49 PM , Rating: 2
I think we have a slightly different idea on what an IT Manager is. I'm refering to those who own a business doing IT work. I guess Consultant is more commonly used, but I've heard IT Manager, IS Manager, and the like. So they are the ones who's opinion you would ask.

I still wouldn't build an AMD system at home. I can afford not to, especialy now that the prices are extremely competitive; and they still left a bad taste in my mouth. It is just a personal opinion but I stand by Intel because I know it will work and continue to work. And I am one of those geeks...although I'm not in a cubicle, nor am I in that age demographic.

RE: A little pleased
By bob661 on 4/21/2007 6:55:11 PM , Rating: 2
IT Manager
IT Manager isn't a consultant it's the head IT guy in a corporation. And how the hell did AMD leave bad taste in your mouth? I work for an organization with close to 10,000 users and our entire engineering department runs AMD (about 500 or so). We have AMD powered servers running 24/7 without fault. We also have many Intel desktops and servers running 24/7. We bought AMD because they were faster, cheaper, and cooler running than Intel. Makes good business sense. If it works, it works.

Now there's a price parity and the performance difference is nearly identical so we can CHOOSE based on features.

If you're making business decisions based on fanboy ideals, your IT department is not really looking out for the best interests of your company.

RE: A little pleased
By PrezWeezy on 4/23/2007 1:04:24 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct in that I used the wrong term. I appologize for that, but I corrected myself. And AMD left a bad taste in my mouth when I installed several of them and after a few months the procs started to overheat and freeze or shutdown the computer. I want reliability in the business world. My company has a few of the new generation AMD machines out there. And I would agree that our database server running dual Opterons is an Intel killer. The things is amazing. It runs much faster than any Xeon server we could put together at the time. That doesn't change the fact that unless it is a specialized application, I prefer to go with the more stable Xeon.

RE: A little pleased
By mindless1 on 4/19/2007 5:03:43 AM , Rating: 2
and I can't tell you how many DIDN'T ask you what to buy.

Only stupid people rely on IT managers, the rest make their own informed decisions. That is not to slight the experience of IT managers, only that a certain segment of buyers needs help today when the internet is such a wealth of information.

People do actually listen to gamING, it is in fact what drives a lot of the market, not some arbitrary score running Office 200(n), in addition to benchmarks of other applications they won't ever use.

Yes running a common set of parts helps, but platform? No, that's stupidity. There is just as much difference in maintenance in whether all boxes use the same NIC as whether they all use the same brand of CPU.

RE: A little pleased
By PrezWeezy on 4/19/2007 5:45:12 PM , Rating: 2
You obviously have never in your life managed anything in IT. Lets say I have 200 computers, and a few spares. If all the parts match identicaly and one goes down, I can take my spare box, swap the hard drives (assuming you have the license to do that), and that person is good to go while I get the motherboard replaced or get a new fan for the CPU. For a small company it doesn't make much sense, but the more computers you have out there the more and more it does make sense to have a platform aproach. Use one family of chipsets and maybe use a faster CPU if you need more power.

You may not need help buying a PC, but if I look online I can find just as many Intel backers as I can AMD backers. So now the question is which do I go with? So you ask the people who know, the guys who work on them all day long. And I'd like to point out that the average consumer not only wouldn't know what a benchmark is, but what it means even if they did know to look for them. No the fact of the matter is that people either use their checkbook to determind their PC purchase or they ask some one they know and trust.

You're right, you can't tell me how many didn't, because you have no idea yourself. My point was that the majority of people at least ask my opinion before buying a new PC. And many of them go out of their way to call and ask. And the average user doesn't look online. The percentage of those that do is very small.

RE: A little pleased
By bob661 on 4/21/2007 7:07:22 PM , Rating: 2
You obviously have never in your life managed anything in IT. Lets say I have 200 computers, and a few spares.
You obviously work for a retarded IT department. Everyone in a company doesn't need the exact same computer. The computer one gets is based on the need of the person. I'm not saying you have to assess everyone's needs but you do have make an educated, throughly researched assessment of your companies needs and match the computer to that need. If you have 500 people that only use "office" apps, then a $500 cheap box will more than do the trick. If you have 200 people that require some sort of heavy scientific or math calculations then you give them a box that does the trick. Todays computers are extremely reliable and require VERY few spare parts. We keep one 7'x7' cabinet with spare parts for the internals for our engineering department (500 users). The spare server parts are in the same cabinet. We have another smaller cabinet for the Dell's (everything's onboard).

Also, variety of chipsets and hardware is mute when you know how to build an image. We have 120 images we use that can be used on any hardware platform whether it is Intel or AMD. Your company isn't getting what they're paying for no wonder our jobs are going overseas.

RE: A little pleased
By Targon on 4/23/2007 7:09:40 AM , Rating: 2
There is something to be said in IT to have a limited number of different machine types in service at any one time. While I disagree with the idea that all machines in an environment should be identical, when it comes to fixing problems, it really does help in many situations.

With that said, having several different types of machines in use really isn't a bad thing in IT, as long as you don't go with the, "All our machines are identical except these two machines" type situation. If you order 25 machines a month, then going with some Intel and some AMD based machines is fine.

Over the long haul, AMD does tend to let IT upgrade the processors for a longer period of time with a given socket. Socket 754 was never planned to last for a long time, socket 939 wasn't too bad for how long you could upgrade processors. Socket AM2 processors will work in systems with an AM2+ socket as an upgrade path, and socket AM2+ processors will work in socket AM2 motherboards, just without being able to have each core clock independently. When socket AM2+ processors are released, I have heard the plan is to let them work on socket AM3, though I could be wrong about that.

Now, back to the topic at hand...

Vendors upgrade their models on a very regular basis, dropping the old, and adding the new. Sure, you can still buy older model parts for quite a while if you hunt around the Internet, but when it comes down to it, if you buy 25 machines a month, every six months to a year will probably result in the motherboard or some other component being different. Along the way you have seen hard drives phase over from PATA to SATA, and even the CD/DVD drives have started the transition across the board. Power supplies have changed to reflect the transition of the market as well. Dell tends to push whatever chipset Intel wants them to in Intel based machines as another example. Have you looked at the drivers page for a Dell machine with the same model number? For the same model, you can have different chipsets and different features, so even if you order the same model machine, there WILL be differences over time.

So, the key for larger IT departments is to go with batches of machines that are roughly the same. If you go 50/50 Intel/AMD, then having both types of platforms in house will still be easy to manage. Just avoid VIA or SiS chipsets, and you should be fine.

RE: A little pleased
By PrezWeezy on 4/23/2007 1:25:50 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. I wasn't saying that my suggestion was a purely prcatical one, I was simply stating the "ideal" way to run. In reality you can't have the same maching for everyone all the time. We happen to build our machines so we can stay with one model for a longer period of time. The more uniform you can make your topology, the better for managing. I don't want to have to deal with 120 different images. I have 10. I don't use the same machine for everyone but I like to be similar if possible. And if it comes to needing to upgrade the processor, we just replace the machine and move the old one down to someone who has an even older machine.

As for everyone needing the same machine you are correct that not everyone needs the same machine to run their particular apps. But I can build a computer with an MSI board that has on board video, 1 gig of RAM, everyone uses DVD burners now, an 80 gig hard drive, and a C2D E6300. If someone needs more processing power I can simply put in an E6600. For someone who needs more video we can put in an add on video card. So not everyone has the same machine but everyone has a platform on which to build. Just like Ford doesn't use a different platform for the Explorer, Mountainier, and Navigator. It's the same car, just dfferent classes, therefor they use the same frame and chasis and just add options for what the customer wants, and wants to pay for.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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