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The new chief technology officer went to AMD last year from Newisys, an early designer of servers built with AMD's Opteron processor. He is responsible for the direction of AMD's overall chip design strategy, which encompasses everything from servers to PCs to newer devices that haven't really gone beyond the drawing board.
On Thursday, the chipmaker is holding a half-day meeting for analysts at its headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., where new details are expected to be revealed about its road map and future direction. Any announcements will receive intense scrutiny, as many people are wondering what AMD has in store for its next trick. It has announced plans for only minor changes this year, such as DDR2 memory support, as it prepares for a new architecture in 2007.
In just a few short years, AMD has moved from a niche player known mostly to gamers to a supplier to Fortune 500 companies across the world, even convincing longtime holdout Dell to build a server based on its Opteron chip earlier this month. Its market share among retail PCs has also increased over the past year, actually exceeding Intel's share at certain points in the U.S. market. But Intel is declaring that it is back, with the pending launch of new processors based on a more power-efficient architecture.
At the Future in Review conference in Coronado, Calif., recently, Hester sat down with CNET News.com to discuss how AMD is helping the software industry deal with multiple processing cores and gave his take on the hot conference topic, computers for the developing world.Q:When it comes to client software, what is your role in getting the industry ready for the multicore era?
We spend a lot of time really trying to understand the end-user scenarios of "what is the application going to be like that these people would use? And what software characteristics do those applications have?"
If you look at it in the server space, I would argue that more or less all the contemporary applications have been developed for multiprocessing environment. Multicore is just a different way to package that up, and so the server software works well in a multicore environment.
You can't say the same thing about the client software, because you go back 20-plus years down the PC and the client applications, and--other than the possible exception of high-end workstation, dual-processor stuff--those applications always have benefited from single-threaded performance improvements in the processor.
Now that game has got to change. If you look at what's happening in the server side of things, you've seen companies build specialized accelerators for things like Java and XML, and the ability to easily add these customized processing blocks around a dual-purpose core processor is something that we think it?s very important. You'll see us do more and talk a quite a bit about that at the upcoming analyst meeting.
It seems that quad-core designs are going to be the way to go for a while. But then some people have started to wonder if you will get into a core race, the way you got into a gigahertz race.
There are only two ways to go faster: Better single-threaded performers or more multithreaded performers. I mean, that's it--those are the two vectors. So the question then becomes, what's the balance between those two? Where we tend to lean right now is that across dual workloads, you could in fact create more cores than you would see a benefit from.
That gets back to discussion about the evolution of the software that's in the client space. For sure, there has got to be thought given about the performance of things beyond quad-core.
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