AMD's Direction and Next-Gen Bulldozer Revealed

AMD CTOs chime in this morning on what exactly is AMD's plan for the future. In that we see AMD's next generation desktop and server parts revealed - the BULLDOZER. Along with that, M-SPACE, BOBCAT, and FALCON FUSION Family.

Introduction

AMD has been talked about by more analysts and enthusiasts than ever before. Intel has been coming on strong with the impressive Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors for months now and AMD has had little to answer. Today is AMDآ’s آ“Technology Analyst Dayآ” and we will be hearing from both Chief Technical Officers at AMD, Phil Hester with آ“CPUآ” and Bob Drebin with آ“GPU.آ” Of course we know that AMD has been beating the آ“Fusionآ” product drum for many months now foreshadowing their entry into a new market place that represents some major changes in the how exactly the CPU and GPU are sold into the channel not to mention changes in the technologies themselves. Today we learn more about آ“Bulldozerآ” and آ“Bobcatآ” cores, and آ“M-SPACEآ” among other things.

First off though AMD wants us all to understand that they are far and away from just a آ“CPUآ” company any more. The ATI acquisition propelled it into many markets that AMD thinks it will be leveraging x86 computing into very soon.

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These slide above outline what AMD has been saying for months. AMD sees huge opportunities in emerging markets when it comes to bringing more powerful and multipurpose processors into those markets. Understand that AMD sees power graphics and compute processors in phones and set top boxes just to name a few and AMD thinks that its purchase of ATI is going to rapidly accelerate its move into these new x86 markets.

Into M-SPACE

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Before we see AMD move to a truly fused product, one where GPU and CPU transistors lie on the same die and actually share logic, we will see AMD moved to their M-SPACE design. Think of this as AMD taking it technologies and portioning them in building blocks that can be custom designed for specific applications. This will be mainly focused on the mobile and set top box markets for now as it represents a way to efficiently scales and custom tailor technologies for these segments. With M-SPACE design companies can come to AMD and have a CPU and GPU combination built for them that is specific to the needs of the device. This way the customers get what they need, instead of having to accept the آ“generic آ“CPU and GPU combinations that exists in the market.

Next Gen Graphics

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This is one of those slides that the enthusiast may find laughable at the moment but obviously AMD is looking forward past the R600/2000 series of GPUs that are currently on the market. The slide above is again meant to look into the mobile realm of devices. Bringing high-end DX9 and DX10 quality graphics into the mobile segment is a big deal and one thing that ATI has brought AMD is a huge amount of handheld mobile business. While many enthusiasts see them for nothing but gaming cards, ATI has a rich tradition of fueling the handset market and doing a very good job at it. AMD combining a GPU, a display port, and a PCIe bus all on silicon opens up many graphical possibilities that we have not seen in the past with mobile devices, especially of the hand held category.

Also, while the HD Radeon 2000 series has fallen on deaf ears with gamers, there is no doubt that AMDآ’s Unified Video Decoder is leading the pack in that area.

New Cores with New Design

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With M-SPACE comes a new set of CPU cores that firmly meld into the modular design functionality. AMD sees these new cores being utilized from the very high end to very low of application needs. As the names آ“Bulldozerآ” and آ“Bobcatآ” might suggest, you can figure out where the two cores fit into the scheme of things.

BULLDOZER

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While AMD is not releasing hardly any details about what this processor is about under the hood, from what we have been privy to it is almost a fully new way to think about processing while at the same time keeping a very keen focus on not shutting out legacy applications that exist in the market place. We will see Bulldozer in enterprise servers as well as on our own desktops. The statements that most needs to be focused on are, آ“Continued Scaling for single-thread performance,آ” and آ“Partitioned for future scalability and modularity.آ” That would tell me that Bulldozer could be morphed according to the importance of the application whether it has specific multi-thread needs or single thread needs and still take advantage of all its resources. Currently using our dual and quad core processors, when we have a resource-hungry single threaded application, which is still usually the case, our other core(s) are sitting there doing nothing. Bulldozer seems to be able to unite its core to work together on a single threaded application. As for the آ“partitionedآ” statement I would have to read into that the heart of Bulldozer is somewhat akin to AMDآ’s M-SPACE design methodology in that it could be very possibly for AMD to build Bulldozer cores designed for specific applications and hardware.

I think it is worth making the point that Bulldozer is a radical departure from the current AMD cores and even the Barcelona cores which are yet to hit the marketplace . Bulldozer will be the first آ“clean breakآ” we have seen from AMDآ’s K8 core. Bulldozer is easily the most promising architecture we have seen from AMD since its Opteron launch in April of 2003.

Bulldozer is slated to be launched into the آ“Sandtigerآ” server and workstation arena in mid-to-late 2009 using DDR3 memories.

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When you see the reference to 8 or 16 Bulldozer cores and think that is nothing new, keep in mind that we have yet to see exactly what is inside these cores or how the core itself could be scaled or modularized.

BOBCAT

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Bobcatآ’s slide here is even more elusive than the one above, but it is obvious that AMDآ’s M-SPACE design methodology is meant to attack the mobile space and set top box market more than desktop although we will likely see a few products in the desktop space using Bobcat in the future. With the M-SPACE philosophy and Bobcat AMD should be able to build specific Fusion platforms to meet the needs of their customers.

FALCON FUSION

Falcon will represent the first step towards a fused product from AMD.

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With so much emphasis on Fusion technology in the last year, this Falcon Fusion Family part certainly outlines the first true step we have seen in that direction. Although we are looking at the Falcon as being made up of very defined modules, this technology is all residing on a single piece of silicon. As Fusion moves forward we are going to be seeing CPU and GPU sharing transistors and actually becoming آ“fusedآ” together in a more direct sense or at least that is how Phil Hester has explained his vision to HardOCP.

Closing Slides

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Conclusions

Obviously the big story today is Bulldozer. This is not to take away from Bobcat and Fusion technologies, but they are not going to represent the brute force technologies that AMD is going to need in order to compete with Intel. And while Bulldozer will be seen as a آ“brute forceآ” product it is going to bring with it some svelte abilities that make it an elegant solution for many applications. While some are looking forward to only multi-core and multi-threaded applications we need to be aware that the true changes to a multi-threaded infrastructure are further away than openly available 64-bit software was when AMD was first to tackle 64-bit processingآ…and we are still a long ways from that decidedly penetrating the market.

As we stated above, Bulldozer represents a radical departure from the K8 technology that is the basis for AMDآ’s upcoming Barcelona cores. K8 and its Opteron and Athlon families have served us well with things looking a bit brighter lately for AMD Barcelona. But make no mistake about it, AMD is going to be looking to low power Barcelona cores that deliver excellent performance per watt to stop the bleeding both in terms of technology leadership and profits lost to Intel through Q209. Barcelona will scale to the high GHz it must have to be competitive but do not expect that in quantity till 2008.

AMD needs a clean break from K8 in order to propel itself forward and Bulldozer based platforms represent that need in action. We will see if Barcelona server and workstation parts along with the upcoming Phenom desktop parts are enough to keep AMD afloat till the arrival of Bulldozerآ…and R700 hopefully well before then.

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