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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 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.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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