The new ARMv8 architecture is classically British; a clean and elegant 64-bit instruction set, with compatibility for 32-bit software. The 64-bit mode eliminates many complicated and awkward features and will foster a larger and more diverse ARM ecosystem with new licensees and applications.
New compute efficiency data shows GPUs with a clear edge over CPUs, but the gap is narrowing as CPUs adopt wide vectors (e.g. AVX). Surprisingly, a throughput CPU is the most energy efficient processor, offering hope for future architectures. Our data also shows some advantages of AMD’s Bulldozer, and the overhead associated with highly scalable server CPUs.
With all the recent changes, AMD seems like a ship adrift at sea with no clear strategy or vision. We look at AMD and where they are likely to head in the coming years for tablets and phones and explain why they will stick with x86, rather than embrace ARM as some have suggested.
Highlights of the upcoming 2012 ISSCC include the first 22nm disclosures from Intel and several SoC papers from AMD, Cavium Networks and Oracle. Looking out further to the future, the clear focus is power consumption. There are several papers from Intel on low-power logic, one from IBM discussing 3D integration of embedded DRAM and a third from Fujitsu on system level power for the K supercomputer.
Nvidia’s Kal-El sports a novel 5th ‘companion’ core to lower idle power. We look at the trade-offs and benefits to this approach and explain why it will be a strong tablet SoC, but only an incremental gain for smartphones.
AMD’s Hot Chips presentation delved into Llano, the first mainstream Fusion product, with details and results for power management. Previous disclosures painted a poor picture, which is far from the truth. Given the older CPU and GPU designs and time-to-market pressure, the results are quite good. Llano’s power management focuses on the most important aspects and is a solid foundation for future generations that will be much more power aware and optimized.
Enthusiasts and engineers know cooling is vital; it raises frequency and dramatically lowers power by reducing CPU or GPU temperatures. The world’s fastest supercomputer shows that thermal management can increase CPU performance/watt by 20% and cooling is critical for 3D integration and Moore’s Law.
For over 40 years, the planar transistor has been the keystone of the semiconductor industry. Intel’s new 22nm tri-gate transistor is revolutionary, moving transistors into a three dimensional world. After 10 years of research, this novel structure is the next step for Moore’s Law and promises to substantially improve performance and power efficiency.
Intel’s Sandy Bridge ISSCC paper discusses a number of challenges they will eventually impact most vendors. The novel architectural choices and circuit design solutions that they describe give insight into current and future products from Intel, but also the general direction of the industry. The overarching theme is taking advantage of Moore’s Law at 32nm and beyond, which entails considerable attention to design complexity, process variation, power efficiency and validation.
As Moore’s Law continues, each new generation of semiconductor manufacturing is ushered in by new challenges, hurdles and solutions. At ISSCC 2011, a panel with speakers from Global Foundries, IBM, Intel, Renesas and TSMC discussed manufacturing and circuit design interactions at the upcoming 22nm node. Industry leaders have reached a broad technical consensus, although with several subtle differences. This report explores the key challenges and solutions at 22nm; focusing on variation and co-optimization between design and manufacturing. As a result of the needed collaboration, understanding of physical design and manufacturing is even more critical to cutting edge chip development and achieving good performance, power and yields.