Sunnyvale (CA) – AMD has updated its server processor roadmap with single-die 6-core and dual-die 12-core Opteron processors. The new processors will be manufactured in a 45 nm process that will be introduced with the Shanghai quad-core later this year.
When Intel rolls out its Nehalem processors later this year, AMD appears to be better prepared than in late 2006 when Core began its triumph and until today pretty much wiped out all of the gains AMD Opteron has made in previous years. On the server side, AMD will counter Intel with the Shanghai quad-core CPU, which will be based on the current Barcelona technology, but will be manufactured in 45 nm and bring performance and power consumption benefits.
According to vice president Randy Allen, Shanghai will deliver about 20% more speed than Barcelona. While the chip will remain compatible with the current Socket F (1207) platform, the L3 cache will triple to 6 MB, 3-lane HT3 support will be integrated and DDR memory support will be extended to 800 MHz devices. AMD claims that the idle power consumption of the new CPUs will be 20% below their 65 nm counterparts.
Production of the 45 nm chip, which has been sampled to server vendors, is scheduled to begin late this year, while first products should be surfacing in Q1 2009. In the second half of that year, AMD plans to release a single-die 6-core Socket F processor code-named Istanbul. Offered for two- and four-socket systems, the chip will be clocked at lower clock speeds than the quad-cores.
A completely new platform (read: a departure from Socket F) is planned to be introduced in 2010. Called the “Maranello” platform, AMD will then transition to DDR3 memory and four HT3 lanes. The multi-socket processors will include the monolithic 6-core “Sao Paulo” with 6 MB of L3 cache, new hardware throttling and power management features, as well as the dual-die 12-core “Magny Cours” processor with 12 MB L3 cache. Both processors will be built in 45 nm. At least at this time AMD does not anticipate any Nvidia chipsets to support this platform and says that it will couple the CPU with its own RD890S and RD870S northbridges as well as the SB700S southbridge.
Eagle-eyed readers may wonder about those production dates. A late 2008 45 nm volume production of these processors matches the information we received from industry sources and would mean that AMD will put 45 nm into production just about one year behind Intel. Intel plans on introducing 32 nm processors in late 2009 and AMD now indicates that its Sao Paulo and Magny Cours processors will be manufactured in 45 nm in the first half of 2010, leading us to believe that 32 nm won’t arrive until the second half of the year in a best case scenario. This could mean that AMD keeps up with Intel, but won’t gain any ground on Intel in this discipline anytime soon.
Randy Allen responded to our inquiry by saying that this assessment would not be accurate as server processors do not reflect the entire product range of AMD. However, at least for 45 nm, we have credible sources indicating that 45 nm AMD CPUs won’t arrive before Q4 of this year. The 2010 processors are too far out to speculate whether Intel will deliver them at the end of 2009 and whether AMD will have any 32 nm chips available in Q1 2010. But clearly, at least for now, the 2006 promises AMD made to analysts aren’t likely to be kept.
Until Shanghai arrives, AMD will have to survive with its Barcelona quad-core and it is not surprising that the company touts the power-efficiency drum to compare itself favorably to competing Intel products. Allen claimed that AMDs 75 watt part Opteron 2356 saves about 20% of power when idle, 14% in high-load scenarios and 10% under full-load when compared to Intel’s (45 nm) 80 watt Xeon 5440. The executive also noted that the Opteron delivers on average 13% more performance than its Intel counterpart.
Those claims are based on five SPEC benchmarks as well as two fluid dynamics tests. It often depends on a very specific need that exploits a very specific capability of a processor as the results in each of those benchmarks can change dramatically. While AMD claims a 19% lead in SPECompMBase2001, a 13 and 19% in SPECfprate_base2006 and SPECfprate_2006, we were not able to verify the latter two results. In fact, official SPEC results indicate that at least one Intel Xeon 5440 systems is 29% and 26% ahead of the best performing Opteron 2356 system listed.