AMD’s Analyst Update

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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.

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IBM z196 Mainframe Architecture

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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.

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ISSCC 2012 Preview

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.

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Sandy Bridge for Servers

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Intel’s Sandy Bridge-EP arrives late this year to take on AMD’s Bulldozer in 2 and 4-socket servers. It offers up to 8 cores with a new system architecture including 20MB L3 cache, 4 DDR3 memory controllers and faster 8GT/s QPI 1.1 links. Sandy Bridge-EP is also the first server CPU to integrate PCI-E 3.0 on-die, with up to 40 lanes – a significant bandwidth and power efficiency advantage. This article compares the system architecture and design to previous approaches and shows that Sandy Bridge-EP will be a compelling upgrade for 2-socket servers and attractive for certain 4-socket systems, particularly those with large I/O needs.

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Intel’s Quick Path Evolved

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Intel’s Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) was a massive step forward over the front-side bus that was used from 1995-2008. QPI finally caught up and exceeded AMD’s HyperTransport, helping Intel retake much of the server market. The next generation QPI 1.1 was re-architected based on trends and changes in the computer industry. QPI 1.1 is an incremental improvement at the physical and logical layer, but a substantial change in the coherency protocol. Sandy Bridge-EP will be the first product to implement QPI 1.1, later this year.

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What Do Overclockers and Supercomputers Have in Common?

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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.

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Poulson: The Future of Itanium Servers

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Over a decade, Itanium scaled down to 65nm re-using the same basic design. The new 32nm Poulson architecture moves from static VLIW to a more conventional pipeline. It has a new core with dynamic scheduling, fine-grained multithreading and a shared L3 cache. The net result is a vastly more efficient microprocessor that should achieve 2.5-2.8X higher performance and power high-end servers for the next 10 years.

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Intel’s 22nm Tri-Gate Transistors

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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.

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Sandy Bridge ISSCC Update

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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.

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Sandy Bridge SPECcpu2006 Estimates

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Sandy Bridge SPECcpu2006 estimates are finally available. The data show per-core performance increased by 30% or more compared to the fastest Westmere design. We analyze the performance numbers for Intel’s newest microarchitecture and estimate gains of 12% for multi-threading on integer workloads. We also show high sensitivity for integer performance to frequency and much more limited response for floating point workloads. Last, we assess the implications for AMD to match Sandy Bridge’s performance for both throughput and single threaded workloads.

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