While most reporters and bloggers today are trumpeting the fine showing by chip-maker AMD in the semi-annual list of the world's Top 500 Supercompting Sites, for me the real news is what AMD has planned for next year. In the first quarter of 2010, AMD is scheduled to begin shipping a processor that will include not only 12 cores, but also the vastly expanded memory bandwidth to support them.
Code-named Magny-Cours, the processors will offer four channels for DDR3 memory, twice that of its 6-core Opteron top-performer, which by the way powers what is today considered the fastest supercomputer in the world. AMD further boasts this week that five of the top 10 systems on the November list have AMD inside. DDR3 doubles the transfer rate of DDR2, effectively quadrupling bandwidth when available over four channels instead of two.
"A processor with four memory channels and 12 cores will be a very appealing option for film rendering and virtualization of high performance computing," said John Fruehe, director of business development at AMD's Server and Workstation Division, in a confidential group phone briefing Friday. It will be a natural, he said, for the types of things being done in the film industry, where Intel has a stronghold.
But the news isn't all upside; all of AMD's new processors, starting with the Magny-Cours, will require all new system hardware. However, AMD says that the socket infrastructure will support its 16-core processors coming in 2011 and beyond.