There's been quite a bit of talk about Intel's next-generation Sandy Bridge architecture of late, but what of AMD's future CPUs? Well, their architectural plans have now been unveiled at the Hot Chips 2010 event, and a number of sites have run the rule over their forthcoming Bobcat and Bulldozer architectures.
While AMD is committed to a two architecture roadmap going forward (Bobcat and Bulldozer) we’ll see three fairly different chips addressing the various market segments in 2011.
Bobcat will do low end/low power (think netbooks and nettops), Llano will do mainstream notebooks (e.g. MacBook, HP Envy equivalent) and Bulldozer will be used for high end desktops and servers. Llano actually uses a Phenom II derived core so it’s technically a third architecture but I’d expect its market to eventually be split between Bobcat and Bulldozer based designs.
It was interesting to hear AMD compare its Bulldozer module to current Intel HyperThreading architecture and you will see the comparison made on the slides below. AMD seemed to be of the mind, "Why do we need something akin to HyperThreading when we can add an additional core to our module for about a 5% increase in die size?" AMD kept with the 2-core module to HyperThreading comparison throughout the talk.
More low power states and more advanced and granular clock gating will also be part of Bulldozer and upcoming Northbridge parts for the desktop. Expect to see two channels of DDR3 memory per module as well. As well a new modes of AMD's TurboCore technology that "overclocks" the processors.
On the desktop side, while this was not discussed, I would expect to see 4 and 8 core Bulldozer processors at the desktop launch, whenever that may be. AMD quoted no dates and to be perfectly honest, I did not ask as I did not want more Bulldozer promises.
In the mid-90s AMD hired a bunch of ex-DEC/Alpha guys, and quickly got them working on a next generation architecture, which would become the basis for a decade+ of AMD processor designs. The Athlon architecture’s basic structure, while expanded upon over the years, still can be seen in the latest Phenom II processors. Improvements such as large L2 and L3 caches on chip, on-die memory controller, and the inclusion of 64 bit computing have all extended the basic Athlon architecture to where it is still an effective performer in the CPU market. But all good things must come to an end and with the development of the very impressive Nehalem architecture from Intel, and the upcoming Sandy Bridge, AMD’s primary CPU architecture is certainly showing its age.
The jump for AMD to Bulldozer is in fact much more reminiscent of the jump from the K6 to the K7. Bulldozer is an entirely new architecture which borrows some of the more successful aspects of their current processors. It does add several new innovations which should allow AMD to be far more competitive with its arch-rival Intel. Let us dive into the basic presentation given to us by AMD to get a good taste of what Bulldozer will bring to the table.
"Bulldozer" and "Bobcat" - Two new x86 cores targeting different usage models. "Bulldozer" will be a completely new, high performance architecture for the mainstream server, desktop and notebook PC markets that employs a new approach to multithreaded compute performance for achieving advanced efficiency and throughput. "Bulldozer" is designed to give AMD an exceptional CPU option for linking with GPUs in highly scalable, single-chip Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) configurations. "Bobcat" will target the low power, ultrathin PC markets with an extremely small, highly flexible, core that also is designed to be easily scaled up and combined with other IP in APU configurations.
You can also read a "twenty questions" segment regarding Bulldozer on AMD's own 'blog.
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