Advanced Micro Devices may develop special multi-core central processing units (CPUs) based on Bobcat micro-architecture aimed specifically at cloud datacenters. At present the company is only considering development of Opteron chips powered by Bobcat and such chips are unlikely to emerge in the next couple of years, but a multi-small-core design may make sense.
At present AMD has two accelerated processing units (APUs) with two x86 cores low-end graphics engine with 9W thermal design power and 1.0GHz clock-speed as well as 18W TDP with 1.60GHz frequency, which results in less than 4.5W per 1GHz core or less than 9W per 1.6GHz core. The chip designer also offers six-core Opteron 4164 EE microprocessors (1.8GHz) with 35W TDP, or 5.83W per core, as well as twelve-core Opteron 6164 HE chips (1.7GHz) with per-core power consumption of roughly 7.1W power consumption per core.
The Bobcat cores are meant to be very efficient in terms of power consumption and although it lacks support for ECC memory, large cache, support for server operating systems and other necessary features to run servers, its power consumption is not much lower compared to specially selected modern-generation Opteron silicon. Moreover, Bobcat offers lower performance compared to current K10.5 cores. But while Bobcat does not have visible advantages compared to already available Opteron CPUs, AMD will continue to evaluate the micro architecture as potential solution for cloud data centers that demand maximum number of cores.
"We will continue to evaluate and define our product roadmap to ensure we have the right products for the future. We are analyzing both “Bulldozer” and “Bobcat” core design points for future SoC’s (system-on-chip) targeting the cloud server space. There is not 100% clarity at this time about the needs of the cloud market because so much of it is evolving today, but we are serious about ensuring we have the right solution going into the future. That means any products we develop in the future for cloud servers would have “server class” features (ECC, appropriate cache sizes and memory support etc.)," said John Fruehe, the drector of product marketing for server, embedded and FireStream products at AMD.
It is clear that Bobcat processors will provide lower idle power compared to AMD Opteron chips based on K10.5 or Bulldozer micro-architectures. But the big question is whether Bobcat chips will actually be able to work fast enough to provide decent performance. If those chips do not provide enough speed, then AMD's clients will have to install more of them, which will mean that any 2W-3W per core savings may never be evident due to high number of chips.
"While Bobcat might not be the right product today, we’ll continue to keep our eye on it. Should things evolve in that space, we’ll be ready," said Mr. Fruehe.