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AMD announces next-generation processor architecture roadmap

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Multiple core processors are set to dominate the marketplace by the end of 2007, after AMD follows Intel down the ‘more performance for less power’ road. Having already beaten Intel to the dual-core processor punch, the announcement from AMD that it will ship four-core processors for high end desktops, servers and workstations by mid-2007 puts the chip giants back head-to-head once again. Considering the market share that AMD has carved out for itself in such a relatively short time, currently standing at 20%, Intel look a little exposed right now. It was hoping to stall the market slippage with the introduction of the Core 2 Duo processors, which will end the 13 year reign of Pentiums in the PC world. But given the performance-per-watt claims of AMD, and this power efficiency is perhaps the biggest thorn in the side of Intel, I’m not so sure it will succeed.

The next generation AMD processors will be built using an advanced 65nm Silicon-on-Insulator process, which includes micro-architectural improvements such as a unique and (geek confession coming up) rather exciting ability to dynamically alter the frequency of each core on the chip to match application workloads. End result: reduced overall power consumption and a performance-per-watt improvement over today's OpteronT processor-powered servers in the region of 60% upon release, rising to a 150% gain through 2008 as the technology is honed. Throw in the capability within the AMD processor-powered mobile platforms to dynamically power one or both cores on or off and things get really interesting. More so with the subsequent ability to throttle the chip's HyperTransportT technology bandwidth, depending on the notebook's current state and running applications, which surely must be rattling the Intel cage.

If all that weren’t enough, AMD has also detailed three complimentary strategic initiatives that represent a new open and collaborative approach to chip design, obviously intended to accelerate further innovation and adoption of the AMD64 platform. The first is codenamed Torrenza and represents, as far as I am aware, the industry’s first truly open, customer-centric x86 innovation platform. This capitalizes on the Direct Connect Architecture and HyperTransport advantages of the AMD64 architecture, enabling other processor and hardware providers to innovate within a common ecosystem. It will be possible, using Torrenza, to develop and deploy application-specific co-processors to work alongside AMD processors in multi-socket systems. Developments already in progress include, for example, support for an HTX expansion slot. Next up is codename Trinity, a strategy to uniquely link security, virtualization and manageability technologies by providing open and extensible software tools to OEM partners. The first elements of Trinity have been made available in the recently announced socket AM2 client platforms. The third initiative, codename Raiden, builds directly on Trinity to shift the focus from physical client computing to the delivery of commercial client services with new levels of manageability and security, using new form factors inspired by such industry dynamics as software-as-a-service delivery models.

Just as rumors are flying around the IT and business world that Intel is to lay off 16% of its global workforce (some 16,000 workers), so AMD respond by announcing a new fabrication facility. Well, OK, actually it’s a major transformation of its Dresden-based Fab 30, which will be converted to 300mm production in 2007 and named Fab 38. Then there are the 65nm products from its newest Fab 36 facility in Dresden, using 65nm process technology jointly developed by a team of AMD and IBM engineers in New York as part of AMD and IBM's successful process development and research collaboration. Oh yes, and these state-of-the-art facilities use the company's patented Automated Precision Manufacturing (APM) and Continuous Technology Improvement (CTI) capabilities to enable a rapid transition to new technology generations and quickly achieve mature yields. The AMD focus on speed, accuracy, agility and efficiency via APM is being enhanced through the adoption of a lean philosophy to microprocessor manufacturing to enhance processes, reduce waste and accelerate time-to-market for our customers. Intel have every reason to be worried, it seems to me…

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