During the second half of 2009 AMD is set to release a 6-core chip code-named Istanbul and then jump immediately to a 12-core chip the following year, an AMD spokesman said. “Twelve-core chips will handle larger workloads better than 8-core chips and are easier to manufacture” said Randy Allen, vice president and general manager at AMD.
AMD is also planning to release a 6-core chip in 2010 to complement the 12-core chip to meet requirement of systems that do not need 12 cores. Code-named Sao Paulo, the chip will include 6MB of L3 cache and support for DDR3 RAM. The new chips will be manufactured using 45-nanometer process (already used in Intel’s current generation processors), which should increase power efficiency.
Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research, explains that AMD, which is struggling financially, is making financial and technical considerations in jumping from 6-core to 12-core chips. He also added that jumping to twice the chips size will allow the company to dump more cores on each chip while delivering better product margins and lowering manufacturing costs. AMD’s 12-core chip will contain two 6-core processors on individual chips in a single processor package, McCarron said. That is a more reasonable goal than including 12 cores on a single chip, which can be expensive to manufacture.
The addition also enables AMD to evade competition with Intel in 8-core chips, McCarron said. In the second half this year, Intel is shipping a 6-core Xeon server processor tagged Dunnington; only later would it plan to shift to 8-core processors. Even with AMD’s modified plans, Intel will continue to be competition. Intel shipped 78.5 percent of chips in the first quarter of 2008, while AMD held a 20.6 percent market share, a slight gain from the 18.7 percent market share it held in the first quarter of 2007.
The new product direction is a strategy for AMD to recover from recent chip and supply issues. AMD’s latest server chips, the quad-core Opteron processors code-named Barcelona began shipping in late June after numerous delays and obstructions. “Obviously, AMD had some trouble over the past year, but they have a staple of OEMs and routes to markets with their processors. What you’re seeing is much more public focus on what’s going to happen in the next 18 to 24 months rather than longer term,” said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at Illuminata. The company last month reported its sixth consecutive quarterly loss and plans to lay off 1,650 jobs by the third quarter.
TFOT has previously covered the CeBIT 2008 Show in Motherboards where AMD introduced its newest integrated graphics chipsets. You can also check out our article about smaller, speedier computer chips which have developed a new technique for making transistors out of carbon nanoribbons.
Additional information on AMD’s 12-core processor plans can be obtained at the AMD website.