Sandy Bridge-EP is the first major overhaul for Intel servers since 2009, and nearly ever aspect has been enhanced. The processor pairs 8 cores with a large last level cache, DDR3 memory controller, QPI 1.1, integrated PCI-E and power management. This article provides an overview of the major features, including new I/O optimization and power capping techniques and discusses the expected impact.
Intel’s upcoming Haswell microprocessors include transactional memory and hardware lock elision that are exposed through the Transactional Synchronization Extensions or TSX. In this article, I discuss TSX and predict the implementation details of Haswell’s transactional memory and expected adoption across the industry, based on my previous experience.
AMD’s new management took to the stage to highlight a new strategy and share the roadmap for 2012-2013. The executives generally came across well and there are only a few changes from the existing focus, with no major shifts. The updated server roadmap seems challenging, given the competition, but client systems should do decently and expand AMD’s footprint in mobile.
For 4 years, Intel has struggled to move into the market for mobile devices. Conventional wisdom holds that x86 is too inefficient for smart phones. The recently announced 32nm Medfield proves that x86 is a viable option and that Intel can design smart phone products. We explore the Medfield SoC and analyze the impact on Intel’s mobile strategy.
IBM’s mainframes are the oldest line of computers, dating back to 1964 and occupy a special place as the world’s first instruction set architecture. This longevity and extreme backwards compatibility are responsible for perhaps the most lucrative computer franchise. IBM’s z196 is the first mainframe with an out-of-order CMOS microprocessor, and also the first with an integrated L3 cache. These two innovations are largely responsible for a 30-40% improvement in performance over the previous generation z10.
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.
Sandy Bridge is the first GPU tightly integrated with an x86 through a shared L3 cache. Graphics performance has doubled, thanks to new shader cores and more powerful fixed functions. Sadly, there is no OpenCL or DirectX11 support till Ivy Bridge. Multimedia is superb, with full hardware decoding and accelerated encoding exposed through an API. The new design is a huge advance, but much work remains for future generations.