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Advanced Micro Devices said Tuesday it was demonstrating its first dual-core microprocessors along with HP’s four-way server machine at its facilities in Austin, Texas. The announcement marks availability of the world’s first x86-64 processors and confirms AMD’s position to ship commercial dual-core chips next year.

AMD’s Direct Connect Shows Path to Multi-Core Designs

Sunnyvale, California-based AMD says its AMD64 architecture was developed to allow multiple processing engines inside single microprocessor from the ground up, a peculiarity AMD names Direct Connect Architecture. All AMD’s 64-bit Opteron processors shipping today were designed to add second processing core, which means that the chips contained crossbar/system request interface.


AMD Opteron Existing Design

Each processing engine has its own level-two cache, which means that the chip contains more than 2MB of onboard memory, but one dual-channel memory controller as well as three HyperTransport links. AMD does not reveal much details about the dual-core architecture and organization, for instance, it is not clear at the moment how the data from the cache of one core is copied to the cache of the second core.


AMD Dual-Core Die

AMD Opteron and AMD Athlon 64 processors are able to execute both 32-bit and 64-bit software natively, offering seamless industry transition to 64-bit computing within conventional x86 architecture.

Dual-Core Chips Can be Plugged into Servers Shipping Today

Dual-core AMD Opteron processors are said to be compatible with Socket 940 infrastructure for AMD Opteron processors produced using 90nm process technology. The only thing, AMD said, needed to drop the dual-core chips into 4-way HP ProLiant DL535 server was simple BIOS upgrade. The company said servers from IBM, Sun and HP would support dual-core upgrade. Nevertheless, AMD did not specify servers available today that are compatible with forthcoming dual-core microprocessors.

AMD expects the upcoming dual-core AMD Opteron processor to provide better performance on a majority of server/workstation workloads by combining two processing cores on a single die. The form factor, energy consumption and performance needs of today's computer designs demand new innovations. Dual-core processor technology will equip customers with more balanced performance based on industry-standard system architecture.

Available in 2005

AMD plans to introduce a full dual-core processor line-up for the 1- to 8-socket server and workstation market in mid-2005 based on the existing 940-pin socket. Dual-core processors for the client market are expected to follow in the second half of 2005.

Industry Praises AMD’s Dual-Core Move

“As AMD’s strategic partner, we are in a unique position to support AMD64 dual-core technology with our hardware and software products. The Solaris OS combined with the AMD Opteron processor-based Sun servers and workstations will take full advantage of the AMD64 dual-core architecture, managing multi-threaded applications with superior efficiency and performance,” said John Fowler, executive vice president of the Network Systems group at Sun Microsystems.

“Dual-core technology provides an attractive path for increasing processor performance with little or no increase in power consumption or heat dissipation,” observed Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight64.

“AMD has recognized the importance of keeping a compatible system architecture while still meeting today’s demanding computing needs,” said Kevin Krewell, editor-in-chief, Microprocessor Report, Instat-MDR.

“AMD's demonstration of a current platform operating on dual-core AMD Opteron processors based on AMD64 technology represents another industry first for AMD as the company continues to provide industry-leading innovations to the industry-standard architecture,” Mr. Krewell continued.

“Dual- and multi-core processor technologies on industry-standard servers will redefine scalability, performance and value for enterprise and SMB customers,” said Paul Miller, vice president of marketing, HP Industry Standard Servers.

“Having the industry's first dual-core x86 processors from AMD up and running on HP ProLiant servers demonstrates both HP’s close relationship and collaboration with AMD and our ongoing commitment to rapidly deliver the best new technologies to our customers,” Mr. Miller Indicated.

Multi-Core Chips Coming from Everywhere

Traditional microprocessors and personal computers have always had only one processing engine, or core. While single-core central processing units packed with advanced capabilities and operating at high speed delivers enough performance to the vast majority of today’s applications in desktop segment, servers and powerful workstations, which have to handle many operations at once need more than one processing engine to execute two or more threads simultaneously.

With applications for desktops becoming more complex, require more processing power and execution of multiple treads of code instantly, the number of computing engines per personal computer is needed to be increased. While in servers and workstations manufacturers bump the number of chips per computer, desktops are far more cost-sensitive and the majority of PCs are shipped with only one central processing unit inside. While there are some technologies, such as Intel Hyper-Threading, that emulate two processing engines within one microprocessor, they are hardly as efficient as a real system with 2 processors.

A more or less cost-effective way to improve performance of central processing units and personal computers without serious boosting clock-speeds of the chips or increasing the number of CPUs within the system is to pack two processing engines into a single package.

Nowadays all leading makers of processors have announced plans to supply, or already deliver processors with more than one core. IBM has been supplying its Power4 and Power5 products with two cores for a while and targets to produce chips with two processing engines for Apple’s future workstation and also chips for Microsoft’s Xbox 2 console with three cores. Besides, IBM is working with Sony on the Cell processors that are also expected to feature more than one core. Freescale, a Motorola subsidiary, is also expected to offer dual-core PowerPC microprocessors for Apple computers. Sun Microsystems is on-track to release its multi-core, multi-threaded server products code-named Niagara and Rock in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Intel said earlier this year that in 2005 it would release dual-core chips for high-end and mainstream servers, workstations, desktops and portables, while 2006/2007 would be a right time for multi-core central processing units for servers to emerge from the world’s largest chipmaker. AMD has already finalized the design of its dual-core product for servers and said it would supply desktop market with dual-core chips as well by late 2005.

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