February 11, 2007 9:00 PM PST

AMD touts power consumption tech in quad core

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The cores inside Barcelona, the quad-core chip coming from Advanced Micro Devices later this year, are going to lead independent lives when it comes to power consumption.

The processor, which AMD will discuss at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) next week in San Francisco, will sport a new version of AMD's PowerNow technology that will let all four cores simultaneously operate at different speeds, depending on their work loads, to curb power.

If one of the cores is running a 3D simulation, for instance, it can crank past 2GHz, while the other three can slumber at 1GHz. The cores can run at one of four different speeds.

In current AMD dual-core processors, the two cores can run at slower-than-maximum speeds, but they move in tandem. By making the speed of each independent, AMD has cut the average power consumption of Barcelona by about 10 watts, said Brent Kirby, product manager for servers and workstations at the chipmaker.

ISSCC is one of the premier events every year for semiconductor designers and researchers. At this year's conference, IBM plans to describe a Power 6 processor that can exceed 5GHz, while Intel will go into more detail about the 80-core processor it showed off last fall.

The conference has played host to several significant announcements in the past. Papers that first described digital signal processors (from Bell Labs in 1980), RISC chips (from University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University in 1984), 100MHz processors (Intel in 1991) were published at the conference.

Still, the bulk of the papers--such as the one titled "5mA 0.6 CMOS Miller Compensated LDO Regulator with a -27db Worst Case Power Supply Rejection Using 60pf On-Chip Capacitance" from the Georgia Institute of Technology--go far above the heads of even the technoliterate.

As for AMD, it has also improved the circuitry in the integrated memory controller so that the read and write functions in the controller can be shut down. The improvements can cut power consumption in the memory controller by as much as 80 percent.

Additionally, the memory controller and the processor cores can be independently powered up or down. Thus, the memory controller will work at high levels if one core demands it. This safeguards against performance declines, Kirby said.

As a result, Barcelona, although it has twice as many processor cores as current high-end Opterons, can fit into the same servers. Barcelona chips will have a thermal envelope--or maximum power consumption--of 68 watts, 95 watts and 120 watts, depending on the model. (Faster chips consume more power generally.)

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7 comments

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The real story on power consumption?
"If one of the cores is running a 3D simulation, for instance, it can crank past 2GHz, while the other three can slumber at 1GHz. The cores can run at one of four different speeds."

Ummm....would you ever have or want this scenario? If you have it then it is poor software programming/optimization to let 3 cores sit idle while 1 does all of the work. Isn't the whole point of having multiple cores to share the load across the cores to complete the task faster? And then you have to ask yourself, if your quad core is sitting idle much of the time to save you money of your electrical bill, then did you need to buy/upgrade to a quad core to begin with?
Posted by stngo1 (4 comments )
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Software is not there yet...
The absolute maximum 68 watts is not consider low?


"Ummm....would you ever have or want this scenario? "

The 1 core scenario might not happen often, but 2 and 3 cores working at the same time will happen a lot.

As for the software sharing load, much of the software industry is not there yet. Dual-cores released for almost 2 years, and many softwares still didn't utilize 2 cores.

"res to share the load across the cores to complete the task faster? And then you have to ask yourself, if your quad core is sitting idle much of the time to save you money of your electrical bill, then did you need to buy/upgrade to a quad core to begin with?"

Isn't this for server environment? So during night time, when your website has low visitors surfing your website, then the PowerNow feature is useful.
Posted by tony_z (32 comments )
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But can amd perform????
We have already witnessed the decline and terrific slide by both amd and ati into the abyss I think, soon enough.

So amd can not keep up with the solid, astounding performance of Intel, nor can ati keep up with its competition, Nvidia, so they rely on this ridiculous marketing to try and convince executive dinosaurs that they are 'environmentally friendly'!!

HO! HO! HO!! I say Christmas is over and time to invest good solid business dollars in the solutions that have always made the best sense, reduce TCO, and performance+stability deployability and go with Intel Nvidia.

Canadian Captains should also note that ati is no longer a Canadian business and are failing miserably dispite non pc based market share.

If you really want a laugh try amd-ati support once you invest LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Posted by Dragon Forge (96 comments )
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