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Advanced Micro Devices has once again demonstrated its forthcoming sixteen-core AMD Opteron "Interlagos" chip to the press at an event in Dresden, Germany. Unfortunately, the company showed no performance benchmarks and was unable to demonstrate any servers from its partners, except a machine from Supermicro, which is an alarming sign as the company recently lowered performance expectations for its forthcoming chip.

First New Micro-Architecture Since 2003

Bulldozer is a crucially important product for AMD. The Sunnyvale, California-based chip designer has been developing Bulldozer micro-architecture, the first major micro-architecture since the Hammer micro-architecture released in 2003, for over six years. Initially the company wanted to manufacture Bulldozer-based central processing units at 45nm node, but eventually it decided that 32nm fabrication process is more suitable for the chip. Bulldozer is crucial for the company as it is supposed to improve its share on the lucrative markets of high-end desktops and servers. The company is excited about Bulldozer as its peculiarities will allow it to relatively quickly and easily add more cores and thus boost performance of its chips.

"The most exciting part is getting to launch. It has been a long journey, it has been over six years that we have been working on this core. It is exciting to bring a new 'from scratch core' to the market. I think the exciting contribution that Bulldozer brings to the market is that it enables scaling with core counts and thread throughput for server and client markets," said Mike Butler, chief architect of Bulldozer core.

Loads of Hype amid Product Delays

AMD has been publicly talking about its forthcoming Bulldozer micro-architecture as well as products on its base, namely Interlagos (16-core chip for servers) and Zambezi (8-core chip for desktops) for many quarters now. In a bid to keep the interest towards Bulldozer high, AMD has been releasing details about the micro-architecture, peculiarities of products and some background regarding design decisions for over a year now. Unfortunately, amid the massive hype the company not only delayed Bulldozer-based products for a number of times, but at some point it decided not to provide any official performance estimates or expectations.

AMD Opteron 16-core chips for 1P servers

At its event in Dresden, Germany, AMD again decided not to share performance expectations or exact specifications of its forthcoming chips. The company demonstrated a wafer with Orochi/Valencia dies (which will power Valencia and Interlagos chips) as well as single-socket and dual-socket servers from Supermicro running a sixteen-core AMD Opteron "Interlagos" microprocessor. AMD expects to start shipments of its Interlagos chips this month and the official launch is projected to occur sometimes in September.

"This is a Supermicro system with single-socket Opteron 6200-series processor in it. It has sixteen cores and, as you can see, it has got eight memory DIMMs as well. [...] First and foremost is that Bulldozer can bring new levels of performance for customers. Second, it is going to increase the amount of scalability because you can add more cores and more memory addressability. The third thing is the compatibility and efficiency that you will see will help drive power efficiency, better processor efficiency and, most importantly, better budget efficiency," said John Fruehe John Fruehe, director of product marketing for server, embedded and FireStream products at AMD.

Alarming Signs amid Lack of Details

The fact that AMD does not share performance numbers of unreleased chips is not truly surprising by itself: companies are unwilling to reveal details of products that officially do not exist. But the alarming thing is that AMD even decided not to tip any performance numbers or show advantages of its chips when running server applications compared to Intel's already available eight-core and ten-core Xeon chips for dual-socket and multi-socket servers.

The things are getting even more alarming after a remark made by AMD's interim chief executive officer, who recently said that the new chips will only offer 35% of performance boost compared to existing products. Earlier the company estimated that the new chips will offer 50% better performance than current-generation server chips.

"We expect to begin shipping our first server platform featuring the Bulldozer this quarter. The Interlagos platform is our first server offering optimized for today's cloud datacenters. The [Bulldozer] [micro]-architecture excels at compute-intensive and HPC workloads, where it will deliver up to 35% performance improvements compared to our current offerings. Customer excitement for Interlagos is high: all of our major customers are expected to introduce servers based on the new platform this year. We are committed to the server market and are focused on returning the business to a growth trajectory," said Thomas Seifert, interim chief executive officer of AMD, during a recent conference call.

Recently a server maker accidentally disclosed specifications of next-generation Opteron models that AMD seems to plan to release initially which sported pretty low clock-speeds:

  • Opteron 6220: 8-core, 3.0GHz, 3.5GHz Turbo, 8MB L2, 8MB L3 cache
  • Opteron 6234: 12-core, 2.4GHz, 2.9GHz Turbo, 12MB L2, 12MB L3 cache
  • Opteron 6272: 16-core, 2.1GHz, 2.6GHz Turbo, 16MB L2, 16MB L3 cache
  • Opteron 6276: 16-core, 2.3GHz, 2.8GHz Turbo, 16MB L2, 16MB L3 cache

Insufficient clock-speeds of Bulldozer are probably the reason why AMD now claims that the 16-core offering will be 35% faster than 12-core solution (which is natural, given 33% higher core count) and not 50%, as it initially expected. It is also noteworthy that Bulldozer's per-core performance is not projected to be much higher compared to existing microprocessors.

At present AMD's fastest twelve-core Opteron 6180 SE server chip works at 2.50GHz, so it remains to be seen how significantly faster will the new sixteen-core Opteron 6276 chip with 2.30GHz/2.80GHz clock-speeds be against its predecessor in real world applications.

Server Market Share Continues to Tumble

But will AMD Opteron "Interlagos" and "Valencia" processors powered by Bulldozer micro-architecture help AMD to boost its server market share? It is questionable and competition from Intel Corp. is only a part of the equation here.

AMD claims that since Opteron 6200- (Interlagos, 1-way, 2-way and 4-way servers) and 4200-series (Valencia, 1-way and 2-way machines) microprocessors will benefit from drop in compatibility with platforms featuring G34 and C32 servers. This will not only allow existing customers to upgrade their servers, but will also help its server partners to quickly initiate shipments of Bulldozer-based machines by simply switching chips.

Please click to enlarge

The problem is that at present Intel outsells AMD in terms of servers 19 to 1; according to recent figures from IDC, AMD's present share on the market of servers is 5.5%. Such a low market share means that server manufacturers will hardly be able to quickly boost volume of AMD-based machines. Moreover, the share of G34 and C32 platforms is between 6% and 8% of all servers shipped in the last five quarters, hence, AMD cannot hope to significantly boost Opteron chip sales because of upgrades.

It is highly likely that in case AMD's next-generation Opteron chips are considerably better than Intel's, market share of the former will grow relatively slowly as server makers need to get appropriate mainboards, memory modules and other components to boost shipments of AMD-based servers. On the other hand, since server companies are more or less confident with AMD, its comeback may take several quarters, not years. The main question is whether 35% performance increase over previous-generation chips will be enough for AMD to be competitive with Intel offerings.

Tags: AMD, Opteron, Bulldozer, Interlagos, Valencia, 32nm, Orochi


Comments currently: 19
Discussion started: 08/03/11 11:48:14 AM
Latest comment: 10/06/11 10:16:29 AM
Expand all threads | Collapse all threads



Based on this image it's going to exist very soon
1 0 [Posted by: seronx  | Date: 08/03/11 11:48:14 AM]

last couple paragraphs are dubious. most vendors already have G34 infrastructure in place; supporting Bulldozer is pretty much a non-issue. stocking some higher-speed dimms is about it, and that's just an option. dell/hp/ibm/etc will all have BD systems available as soon as the chips. sure, they can't instantaneously ship every system with BD rather than Intel, but the rate of ramping is mostly up to customers, not the supply chain.

as usual, the question is whether AMD's right that customers want to buy cost-effective servers (and whether AMD gets the price/performance point right.)
1 0 [Posted by: markhahn  | Date: 08/03/11 02:19:17 PM]

I'd argue those clock-speeds are pretty good for 16-core and 12-core variants when comparing clock-speeds to Intel's high-end E7 Xeon lineup:

For example: 2.4 Ghz for Processor E7-8870 with 10 cores vs 2.3 Ghz (base) then 2.8 Ghz for the listed Opteron 6276 with 16 cores in the article. I mean, solely based on clock-speeds, I'm impressed. Then again, clock-speeds don't mean anything without performance/watt and performance/dollar numbers to compare with.
1 0 [Posted by: RtFusion  | Date: 08/03/11 04:58:19 PM]

Yet another nothing article from Shilov. Rehash old news some more why don't you.
2 3 [Posted by: jimbo75  | Date: 08/03/11 05:09:07 PM]

I have followed AMD for nearly 8 years. AMD has been countered by INTEL every single time they come up with something innovative. INTEL has so much R&D money they can throw something together quickly to try to compete with AMD. AMD has missed a great opportunity in being so late with their APU technology. But I feel strongly that AMD being quiet and conservative with the release of Bulldozer is an extremely good move. The less ammunition they give INTEL the better. And in these economic times the fact that IT departments can drop these chips into existing data centers is perfect timing for AMD to take market share back with these companies that have tight budgets due to the cash strapped economic conditions. Intel's Sandy Bridge technology is bootstrapped together in the last couple years to counter AMD and it is not very refined... it is actually quite poor. The only thing it has going for it is shear throughput. The graphics integration is very crude.
3 1 [Posted by: walter  | Date: 08/03/11 05:58:25 PM]
- collapse thread

show the post
3 8 [Posted by: AnonymousGuy  | Date: 08/03/11 09:19:56 PM]
you say this in every post, and we understand that you are an Intel minion, but what are you saying is wrong and based only upon your subjective relation with your love Intel. you have to get rid of this fanboism, is not good for any of us...
6 4 [Posted by: 63jax  | Date: 08/04/11 12:09:31 AM]
Was gonna say the same thing. I was thinking "I saw this in some other comment block here on Xbit" In which case he is wrong in both cases. 32nm chips came out jan. 2011 which is close to a year before AMD supposedly is slated to ship BD. How is this 4 years again? wtb maths
2 4 [Posted by: veli05  | Date: 08/04/11 11:35:31 AM]

Opteron 6220: 8-core, 3.0GHz, 8MB L2, 8MB L3 cache
Opteron 6234: 12-core, 2.4GHz, 12MB L2, 12MB L3 cache
Opteron 6272: 16-core, 2.1GHz, 16MB L2, 16MB L3 cache
Opteron 6276: 16-core, 2.3GHz, 16MB L2, 16MB L3 cache


Turbo Core is TDP based thus doesn't have an actual limit to clocks
0 0 [Posted by: seronx  | Date: 08/03/11 06:21:35 PM]

Well the AMD 6100s are damn good for the price and the 6200s are going to be even better. For outright performance at any price, yes Intel wins. Value for money, AMD is streets in front. And if you want more cores, even if the performance is slightly less than Intel's fastest,(and for many of us that is exactly what we want) the 6200s will have a real market niche. 32 real cores in a desktop box, very nice!
0 1 [Posted by: Blaze  | Date: 08/04/11 01:56:05 AM]
- collapse thread

You mean server box G34

And AMD has been winning the Server Market for sometime, doesn't help intel is still doing rebates
0 0 [Posted by: seronx  | Date: 08/04/11 12:31:18 PM]
Well mine uses a Asus KGPE-D16 motherboard (dual socket G34), sits in a medium sized tower case next to my desk, and I don't use it as a server. And I'm looking forward to swapping my dual 6128s for some 16 core chips.
0 0 [Posted by: Blaze  | Date: 08/06/11 04:29:58 AM]

Someone didn't get invited to that press day, did they?
1 1 [Posted by: psychobriggsy  | Date: 08/04/11 03:05:37 AM]

show the post
0 4 [Posted by: veli05  | Date: 08/04/11 01:19:10 PM]

show the post
2 6 [Posted by: bereft  | Date: 08/05/11 12:44:31 AM]

The most remarkable aspect of Bulldozer is the decision to go with a BD core / module style design:

"The firm claims a Bulldozer module can achieve 80% of the performance of two complete cores of the same capability. Yet McKinney told us AMD has estimated that including the second integer core adds only 12% to the chip area occupied by a Bulldozer module."

This type of a design is going to allow AMD to manufacture much cheaper 6 and 8 core variants in the consumer space, and yet allow to easily scale the Bulldozer architecture to 12-16 core servers parts. Looks like a very unique approach.

In addition to that, having FX-6000 (6C) and FX-8000 (8C) offerings in the $200-300 price range will put AMD is a very competitive position to target users who require more cores (i.e., professional applications, rendering, video work, etc.).

Finally, AMD may regain competitiveness in the workstation/server market with innovative dynamic power consumption on a per module basis. With Llano they have also shown that they can even compete with Intel on the power consumption front.

My only concern is that each individual core still won't be as fast as what Intel offers. For us gamers, that would be a deal breaker. Let's hope AMD delivers.
0 0 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 08/06/11 11:38:00 PM]
- collapse thread

Your discussion of AMD chip design is flawed, if you fail to cite the Socket AM3+ vs G34 physical size.

If AMD can just manage to create a G34 chip which is on par with Intel Xeon offerings then Intel will be instantly behind.

The reason is simple, AMD is poised to release a faster second generation, 20 core chip in 2012. To play in this new multiple-cpus per die game, Intel needs a smaller manufacturing process or larger die.

Intel producing a new socket will upset many VMWare customers and cause them to choose the proven AMD Socket G34 platform instead.

In the meantime, I am happy with my various AMD 61xx series cpus. Can't wait to place a 6274 in my ASUS KGPE-D16 motherboard!
0 0 [Posted by: rgathright  | Date: 10/06/11 10:16:29 AM]

Man that is an ugly graph if you're AMD.
2 0 [Posted by: beck2448  | Date: 08/09/11 07:33:57 AM]


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