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AMD Many Core Strategy: Six-Core Chip for Desktops, Twelve-Core CPU for Servers

The year 2010 marked another increase in the amount of cores within central processing units (CPUs). Both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices introduced their six-core desktop offerings this year an AMD even managed to roll-out twelve-core CPUs for servers.

Thuban Adds Turbo

Thuban, a star in the constellation of Draco and the code-name for AMD's six-core desktop processor, is the chip that offers both potential with six x86 cores and relative affordability compared to offerings from the arch-rival.

One of the most important innovations of AMD Phenom II X6 1000T-series "Thuban" processors is Turbo Core technology. Depending on the actual model and its specifications, six-core Phenom II X6 1000T-series chips are able to boost their clock-speeds by 400MHz or 500MHz when only half of available cores are active, e.g., microprocessors work in dual-core or triple-core mode. The top-of-the-range model Phenom II X6 1100T with default clock-speed of 3.30GHz can clock itself at 3.70GHz with Turbo Core enabled. The chips also carry up to 9MB of cache, are compatible with AM3 socket and have up to 125W TDP.

It cannot be said that the Phenom II X6 truly redefined AMD's presence or perception on the desktop market this year oppositely. What it managed to do was to ensure that the company's chips were inside more or less expensive systems aimed at performance-enthusiasts.

New Course with Magny Cours: No 4P Tax

For years Advanced Micro Devices had claimed that putting as many cores onto a single slice of silicon is the best way to achieve both high performance and high scalability. But with its twelve-core code-named Magny Course chips it decided to start using multi-chip-module (MCM) design, something that has been used for years by numerous makers of server chips, including IBM and Intel.

On the 29th of March, 2010, the world's second-largest supplier of central processing units, said that its Opteron processors 6000-series eight-core and twelve core AMD Opteron “Magny Cours” processors, the first chips designed  for the AMD G34 “Maranello” platform for 2-way or 4-way servers were available for sale. The chips featured quad-channel DDR3 memory interface and supported up to 12 memory modules per socket and loads of server and enterprise-specific functionality.

Maranello was AMD’s first server platform in almost a decade that is based on the company’s own chipset. AMD 5600-series chipset features I/O virtualization capability, HyperTransport 3.0 technology and PCI Express 2.0. The new AMD Opteron platform is chipset- and socket- compatible between 2P and 4P and will be compatible with the planned processors based on the next-generation AMD server processor core, code-named “Bulldozer”.

AMD also stresses that the new Maranello platform removes the so-called “4P tax”, since the same processors can be used in both 2-way and 4-way designs, and 4P-capable processors are now the same price as 2P-capable processors. In fact, the move to remove the "4P tax" is not only logical, but a well-thought one by AMD.

"The 4P market is in decline. It used to be 10% of the total market, and now it represents only 4% of the total market as 2P servers have accelerated their performance and reliability. If the 4P market is going to change, something needs to happen. Left alone, it may whiter away to only a point or two. We have had a lot of customers approach us with a desire to purchase more 4P capable systems, but because of the price premium (for generally identical silicon), they have been hesitant to buy 4P. Instead, they compromise and choose 2P because of the more favorable price. We believe this change makes sense today, just as, in the late 90’s, the reduction in 2P price points drove a large increase in units," said John Fruehe, the director of product marketing for server/workstation products at AMD.

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