October 26, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

For AMD, more money means more problems

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"Every day will make the wafer costs go down because we will have better utilization and the die costs will go down due to the conversion to 65-nanometers," Rivet said. The company will also be able to produce more chips from the same wafers in order to satisfy demand, and performance will also likely be improved.

Intel, however, made the move to 65 nanometers in the fourth quarter of 2005, and to 300-millimeter wafers some time ago. Its Core Duo chip was its first processor built using the smaller transistors, and it announced earlier this month that it is now shipping more 65-nanometer processors than 90-nanometer chips.

This has given Intel the flexibility to leapfrog AMD to the quad-core generation of processors. Intel plans to build quad-core chips by taking two separate dual-core processors and putting them together in a single package, which it calls a multichip module (MCM).

The MCM allows Intel to get its designs out into the market faster than AMD. Intel's first quad-core processors are expected to become available next month, but AMD is waiting until the middle of next year to unveil its quad-core server processor.

It also allows Intel to maximize its yields by building smaller chips. For example, if one of the dual-core processors in the MCM gets knocked out by a defect, the whole product doesn't have to be tossed. Intel will still need to build dual-core chips for the mainstream and lower ends of the market for several years. It can build dual-core chips for those markets, and simply package two dual-core chips when it wants to ratchet up the performance.

AMD's chips are based on a different design than Intel's, and so the company believes it benefits most from an integrated core design, where all four cores on its quad-core chips will live on a single piece of silicon. This means that data can be exchanged between cores at the chip's clock speed, since the data doesn't have to leave the die. Intel's design means that if a core on one processor wants to exchange information with a core on the other processor, they have to do so at rates slower than the chip's clock speed, since the signals have to travel through the package.

Some chip enthusiasts--who occasionally resemble architectural critics--aren't too impressed with the MCM approach, since it fails to address Intel's reliance on external communications links to exchange information between processors. This was one of the factors that led to AMD's performance advantage up until the introduction of Intel's Core microarchitecture processors, which outdo AMD's chips on several benchmarks.

Intel thinks its quad-core processors will be extremely competitive on performance and power consumption, in part because the company will boost performance between now and when AMD's quad-core chips are ready, said Bill Kircos, a company spokesman. Still, Intel will use a mix of monolithic and MCM quad-core designs in the future, depending on the need for performance, low-cost chips, volumes, and speed, he said.

AMD's monolithic design also means its die sizes will likely increase when it moves from dual-core 65-nanometer processors to quad-core 65-nanometer processors, raising the cost and margins issue once again. Earlier this year, AMD showed it recognized the need to catch up to Intel's manufacturing pace with the announcement that it plans to introduce 45-nanometer processors just 18 months after rolling out its 65-nanometer chips, a transition that usually takes at least two years. But if it can continue to deliver performance that makes server customers drool with its quad-core chips, the cost questions will be overshadowed by the revenue padding its bottom line.

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11 comments

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AMD
is making alot of promises. I dont think they will make their .45nm promise. They still have not pushed out .65nm.

It will be interesting to see how well AMD's performs in the next 24months. Intel has taken the performance, power, heat crown in a big way. Once their new 4/way CPU/chipset comes out based on the core technology they will really hand it to AMD. Have you seen the Intel "Sweet 16"...4 quad core CPU's?

On top of loosing the performance crown, they are having shortages during FAB upgrades, and merging with ATI. Once Intel hits .45 in late 2007 it will get ugly if Intel starts a hard core price war....because then can way out produce AMD at cheaper prices.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Intel's Still depending on the FSB....
to communicate even between the dual core chips on the upcoming "quad core" and even barring that having more than one CPU depending on the FSB as does Intel's HUB architecture it becomes a bottleneck.
Why do you think Intel is "throwing" large amounts of L3 cache at their Multi-way processors, because it's the only way to somewaht compensate for the FSB bottleneck.

Intel will not beat AMD's Opteron on multi processor servers until they implement their proposed CSI serial transport connection and that is promised in 2008-2009.

AMD is already doubling the hypertransport speed and throwing in a lot of litle niceties in their upcoming "barcelona" processor.

Don't count AMD out quite yet. Intel doesn't hold a torch to AMD in Multi processor systems and they have JUST caught up with them in the desktop.

Yes, Intel can way outproduce AMD and saturate the Intel market but Intel is already hemmoraging and is having to cut back so I have a sneaking suspicion that if Paul Otellini doesn't want to be tarred and feathered by the shareholders that won't happen.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Link Flag
HT Correction and AMD prediction
"Each processor core will be connected by a fast Hypertransport link that allows signals to flow between the cores at the chip's clock speed without having to leave the die."

Actually, this is not true. While HT (HyperTransport) is faster than Intel's outdated GTL+ FSB, AMD's quad-core chips are directly connected on die by the shared L3 cache. This is actually vastly faster than even HT would be. HT is only used to connect socket <-> socket and is never used to connect core <-> core within a socket. You should correct your article.

----

As far as my prediction, I think the near-term future (1-2 years) for AMD is looking very good. Let me explain why:

If one looks at AMD's current situtation, it is easy to see they are trailing Intel a bit in (1) manufacturing capacity and feature size, and (2) in performance in the desktop market. Currently, these things are dragging on AMD a bit. I say that AMD looks good going forward because these two major problems are about to go away.

(1) As AMD moves its processor lines onto larger 300mm wafers, AMD's capacity increases, and AMD's costs go down. Similaryly, AMD's move to 65nm will have the same effect on capacity and costs. AMD is ready to ship 65nm chips fabbed on 300mm wafers in 4Q06 and expects complete conversion by the end of 2Q2007. As we move a year or so into the future, we see AMD's manufacturing problems lessen dramatically.

Also, it is interesting to note the amount of time it takes AMD and Intel to transition to a new node. Intel will spend around 5 to 6 quarters to transition totally to 65nm, while AMD will spend around 3 quarters. Intel may get to the starting line first, but Intel and AMD are crossing the finish line at pretty much the same time.

(2) Intel does hold the performance lead on the desktop. There is no doubt about it. However, Intel is not planning on releasing a new core for another 2 years. This gives AMD two years to leapfrog Intel in performance, and AMD is set to do it in just one year.

AMD's answer is not just a quad-core K8 chip. AMD's answer is a new core design. Many analysts and articles seem to forget this. Remember, Intel hopped AMD with their new Conroe core. Now, AMD is about to hop over Intel with their new Bercelona (incorrectly called K8L) core. The main advantage Core 2 (Conroe) has is its high IPC. Barcelona (K8L) contains a number of tweaks, updates, and enhancements that are all geared toward raising the IPC of the core, sometimes by up to 200%, as is the case with the FP pipeline.

Will Barcelona (K8L) beat Intel's Core2 on the desktop? It is not totally clear. However, it is very clear, after one consideres the technical aspects of the core update, that Barcelona will put AMD and Intel on even footing in the desktop space. All that is left is cost, which has been adressed above.

--

Bottom line:

AMD's costs are set to constantly decrease (and decrease dramatically) over the next year or so, while Intel's costs are going to stay at a more or less constant (slightly decreasing) level for the next year.

AMD is planning a new core for 2007 to raise performace. Intel, OTOH, has no new core planned until 2008, and has no way to raise performace levels except for rasing the CPU clock. We all know how pumping the clock worked for Intel with the P4 (which was designed specifically for high clocks), so I don't expect Intel to be able to pump the clocks much with Core2 (wich has a much shorter pipeline and was not specifically designed for high clocks).

Expect AMD to make up ground in the next two years.
Posted by visaris (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
?!?!
"Also, it is interesting to note the amount of time it takes AMD and Intel to transition to a new node. Intel will spend around 5 to 6 quarters to transition totally to 65nm, while AMD will spend around 3 quarters. Intel may get to the starting line first, but Intel and AMD are crossing the finish line at pretty much the same time."

What does that mean? Intel has been selling and producing 65nm chips for several MONTHS now. AMD has not put out a single 65nm chip. Intel didn't "get to the starting line" they've already run the race and you can get any C2D on the market now in abundance. There is no shortage of these chips.


" Intel does hold the performance lead on the desktop. There is no doubt about it. However, Intel is not planning on releasing a new core for another 2 years. This gives AMD two years to leapfrog Intel in performance, and AMD is set to do it in just one year."

This also makes NO sense. Intel is leading currently, right? Intel is planning quad-core desktop chips that will be released before AMD's. AMD is playing CATCH UP right now and will continue to for the next several years. AMD isn't set to beat Intel in a year. You think that Intel is sitting on it's hands and not coming up with new concepts and chips? AMD isn't planning two core revisions within a year. AMD's next core revision will be to EQUAL the C2D. So that leaves Intel and AMD equal, but it gives Intel the advantage of a YEAR head start in moving forward with 45nm products and moving to quad and more cores.

Furthermore, "Barcelona (K8L) contains a number of tweaks, updates, and enhancements that are all geared toward raising the IPC of the core, sometimes by up to 200%"

So they are raising their IPC 200% and you're not even sure that AMD will beat the C2D? But I thought you said AMD was getting ready to blow away Intel and they have 2 extra years to beat Intel.


"AMD's costs are set to constantly decrease (and decrease dramatically)"

Wrong. AMD is going to have to move to 45nm and they have to bring up new facilities to continue their growth. You think that is all free?

" AMD is planning a new core for 2007 to raise performace. Intel, OTOH, has no new core planned until 2008, and has no way to raise performace levels except for rasing the CPU clock."

Again, absolutely NOT true. Intel is planning on adding quad cores to the desktop chips and moving towards a 45nm chip. AMD's new core = to compete with C2D, which has a YEAR head start!

"Expect AMD to make up ground in the next two years." I thought AMD was going to beat Intel in 1 year? Why do they need 2 years to "make up ground".


Fanboyism aside....

I think most people know that AMD will come out with a competitive product that will be good. But don't expect either company to sit and do nothing.
Posted by LikeLinus (5 comments )
Link Flag
HT fix
Thanks for pointing out the HyperTransport error. The story has been corrected.
Posted by Jon Skillings (249 comments )
Link Flag
Don't know if NUMA is good or bad for AMD
I mean, i guess local memory reference is tremendously fast, but remote is little slow. This puts the burden on OS to allocate memory for process locally and try to peg process to that CPU. But with threads, it complicates everything. these things move cpu to cpu and memory reference end up being remote.

Where as with Xeon its all Uniform memory access.


ajay
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.innerdep.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.innerdep.com/</a>
Posted by dfmrrd (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NUMA
The question is this:

Is it better to have (1) some fast (local) memory access and some slow (remote) memory access, or (2) all slow (remote) memory access?

Many people have said things similar to what you are saying before. The bottom line is that AMD's slow (remote) access is faster than _all_ of Intel's FSB access. Therefore, the NUMA as a hinderance idea is a fallacy.

AMD essentially has fast and normal, and Intel has only slow. Take your pick.
Posted by visaris (3 comments )
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