AMD aims for four-core Opterons by 2007

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. put a quad-core server processor on its road map and promised to upgrade its software investments, as it outlined on Tuesday its general technology direction for the next couple of years.

AMD will introduce a new core design in 2007 that is similar to the core used by the company’s Opteron and Athlon 64 processors, said Phil Hester, vice president and chief technology officer at AMD, one of several executives who took the stage at the company’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California during its analyst day.

The new processor will incorporate four cores connected together by a new version of the Hypertransport interconnect technology, and will support DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory, he said at the event, which provides financial analysts and media with a “State of AMD” address that covers the company’s technology, customers, and financial health.

The server version of this chip will add a third level of cache memory to AMD’s processors, allowing server designers to build systems with 16 and 32 processors, Hester said. Previously AMD’s customers had been limited to building eight-processor Opteron servers because of the difficulty inherent in coordinating cache memory requests within multiprocessor servers.

Cache memory stores frequently used data on the chip close to the CPU, where it can be accessed much more quickly than data stored in memory.

The third level of cache memory will allow 32-processor Opteron servers without the need for external logic to coordinate the cache memory on those processors. AMD partner Newisys Inc. introduced a chipset on Monday that can support 32-processor servers, but it requires special logic that won’t be necessary with the 2007 processor, Hester said.

AMD will make relatively modest changes to its Opteron and Athlon 64 processors in 2006. The company will add support for DDR2 memory with the introduction of a new processor in the middle of 2006. That chip will also use a new socket technology called M2, which uses a different pin structure than the 939 socket currently used on most Opteron and Athlon 64 processors.

The new socket technology is required to let AMD customers upgrade systems based on the 2006 dual-core processor to the 2007 quad-core processor, an AMD spokesman said. The 2006 processors will require new motherboards compared to today’s Opteron processors, but the socket change will allow customer to drop quad-core processors into systems bought after the middle of 2006, the spokesman said.

The 2006 dual-core chips will also introduce AMD’s Pacifica virtualization technology and its Presidio security technology into AMD-based systems, Hester said. Pacifica improves the performance of virtualization hardware with dedicated transistors, and Presidio creates a protected area of the processor for storing critical data.

AMD’s goal for 2006 is to improve its standing within the business PC market, both in desktops and notebooks, said Marty Seyer, senior vice president of business and performance computing. The company hopes that now that more of the world’s leading companies use AMD technology within their server rooms, those customers will trust AMD’s technology on the client side, he said.

An intensified focus on compiler and software optimizations will help that transition, Hester said. AMD will improve its compiler technology and work with operating system and application vendors to develop enhancements to their software that exploits AMD’s technology, he said.