Unplugged: AMD's Queen of most things commercial Margaret Lewis

Unplugged: AMD's Queen of most things commercial Margaret Lewis

Summary: Not ready to give up the pure-64 bit approach to high-volume servers just yet, Intel this week rolled-out the Montecito members of its Itanium family of processors. Amongst other features, one of Montecito's key attributes is its dual core nature.

TOPICS: Processors

Not ready to give up the pure-64 bit approach to high-volume servers just yet, Intel this week rolled-out the Montecito members of its Itanium family of processors. Amongst other features, one of Montecito's key attributes is its dual core nature. Then, later this month, on July 27th, Intel is expected to roll out more dual core processors, this time for desktops and notebooks (as opposed to the high-performance computing server market that Itanium targets).

By the end of 2007, Intel expects all of its new chips to be multi-core chips and, according to industry watchers and benchmarks, the beleaguered company which just axed 1000 of its middle managers as a part of a cost-cutting exercise appears to finally be on the verge of reclaiming the many performance crowns that rival chipmaker AMD has wrested away from it over the last few years.  Intel's leapfrogging of AMD has left many wondering if AMD can rebound or might Intel have evolved to a point where it can leverage its size and prowess to beat AMD at it's own game. To make things even more challenging for the smaller AMD, the two chipmakers have finally parted ways on compatibility for good.  Sure, AMD's Opteron  technology and the AMD64 architecture was a slight departure from compatibility with some of Intel's offerings, but Intel reacted with similar chips that sealed up the incompatibility gaps. The same however cannot be said of the two companies virtualization technologies (AMD-V and Intel VT) -- technologies that turn a single computer into multiple ones that are partitioned from each other. 

On June 14th, AMD's director of commercial solutions Margaret Lewis joined me at my home office-based podcast studio to explain how AMD plans to keep it's edge.  The interview is one of several that I've had to dredge up from the ashes after my IBM Thinkpad T42 suffered a catastrophic hard drive failure.  The interview can be downloaded.  Or, if you're already subscribed to ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts, it may have already automatically downloaded to your computer and MP3 player (see how to subscribe to ZDNet's podcasts).

Among the many questions I asked of Lewis were those that were posed by ZDNet's readers in response to my blog post that solicited questions from our audience members.  But we covered a lot of ground... everything from the two titles she holds with AMD to the company's processor roadmap to her background that stretches back to the Ray Noorda days at Novell to rumors that AMD may acquire video card maker ATI as well as the company's sell-off of its MIPS-based Alchemy divison to Raza Technologies.

Topic: Processors

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  • Conroe benchmarks DO compare with AMD's best

    Margaret is spinning.

    AMD FX-62 running AM2 platform with a 1333 MHz FSB advantage still got KILLED by a low-end Conroe 2.4 E6600 running 1066 MHz DDR2.

    Here comments on SPECint are ridiculous. All the benchmarks are real world. It?s not just synthetic results, it?s not just ?certain benchmarks?, it?s ALL BENCHMARKS!
    • Hey fan-boi, we're talking OPTERONS!!

      Really George, you're gonna have to change your on-line nick to Intel-FanBoi.

      It's bad enough you were busy spamming your own blog with "Intel is the R0xxx0rz!!!11!!1ONE1!, AMD is the Suxx0rzz!!11!!1!"

      Intel's been sucking hind teat for years and suddenly they have a desktop chip that is better and you're so busy trying to scream "AMD is dead!" you sound like one of those Slashdot BSD trolls.

      Meanwhile Opterons continue to rule the roost in the high-end server CPU world.
      Robert Crocker
      • Who is claiming AMD is going to be dead?

        You know, I have heard some talk on both sides of the fence comparing the current line of AMD?s to the Core Duos, and what it all means for both Intel?s and AMD?s future. Let?s be real about one thing, and all but the most adamant and unreasonable AMD fans seem to agree with this, the Core Duos are better and generally speaking cheaper, very much cheaper in some cases. Now, I do not hear anyone saying this provides a guarantee that AMD is dead, I cannot recall anyone actually even making a statement that this means AMD is ?likely ? dead, or ?probably? dead. I think its actually highly likely that this does not mean AMD is dead at all, but, sensibility does dictate that the situation for AMD is considerably more risky then it was only a few months ago.

        Without going into vast details, which really should not be necessary, there is no question that when a smaller competitor, in what is essentially a 2 player market has been improving their position in the market through providing a better but more expensive product, to suddenly get double leapfrogged by a product that is both a better product and less expensive is the worst possible of all business competition realities a company has to face. Saying that such a thing has not created a pressure, or risk situation for the company that has just been double leapfrogged is not the reaction responsible business people have. While on the outside all may be presented as no problem and no panic, on the inside there is always a problem and panic because the double leapfrog is notoriously difficult to overcome, and common sense indicates why this should be obvious.

        The double leapfrog in any highly competitive market is the killer move that many companies seek to employ when possible, but as most companies are terrified to let such a thing happen to them, great measures are often taken to ensure that ones company cannot be jumped in both price and quality either both at once or very quickly in a row. It is no small feat to release a product that tests out at about 20% better then the competition, and to come in at perhaps 50% or less then that, of the competitions price is a huge obstacle. For one?if AMD in this case can suddenly produce a CPU that even competes with the Intel?s at a close price; what was AMD doing before? Just ripping the public off? Will an AMD fanatic ask themselves that question when they claim that?s just what AMD will accomplish? If AMD can make a new cheaper CPU just like that, what?s going on?? At least Intel have had lower prices the last couple years, and it did take them all that time to make these new CPU?s. If AMD can suddenly now creat a CPU 20% better then their current ones at half the price, something funny is going on with the pricing of their current line.

        So who says AMD is dead? I say very likely not dead at all. But, you watch what they have to do, and how they twist in the wind for some time so they can stay on track.
    • RE: Conroe benchmarks DO compare with AMD's best

      Ohmigosh! Everybody has to immediately scrap
      their AMD boxes and buy Intel boxes right now.
      It is the end of the world for AMD. No one will
      ever buy any of their products anymore. Right?
      • ...NO!

        Have you read that AMD filed lawsuits against Intel for anti-competitive tactics? ]:)
        Grayson Peddie
  • Who to believe on power usage


    FBDIMM MAX power consumption can't just be added up. It might start making a difference beyond 8 FBDIMMs in a server and be a wash.
  • AMD will kill INTEL in a few quarters

    Conroe is too little too late. Intel is stuck with 8.66 billion dollars of legacy chips and Conroe is costly to produce. Conroe will be only 25% of the volume until 1Q07. Since an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ frags a Pentium D XE 965, and since AMD is going to price X2 3800+ below Intel's ASP of $150, Intel will see massive losses for a few quarters and will head to BK .

    Intel 2Q06 revenue dropped 13%, profit dropped 60%

    Intel's 2Q06 result is out, far below analyst expectations. Worse of all, its 3Q06 outlook is only $8.3 to $8.9 billion revenue. Mid point $8.6b, 4Q06 follows seasonal pattern, 8% increase over Q3, so it will be $9.3b.

    One thing I was wondering is Intel's sale of the coms division to Marvell. I hope Andy Bryant didn't book a profit from that. It should be at least $1.6 billion impairment on goodwill. Any way, I couldn't find it from the report. There is no loss of goodwill shown in the balance sheet.

    Looking at the balance sheet, Intel is fragged for good. Inventory is now at $4.332 billion at cost, increasing 21.4% from 1Q06. With a margin of 49%, that's $8.66 billion of chips. I laughed out loud when Andy Bryant said that was only a whole quarter of sales. Only $0.2 billion inventory is Conroe. Its designers are working in bomb shelters. 3Q06 inventory level will go up further. 4Q06 gross margin may be even lower. Those Pentium D chips are piling up, folks. Cash is reduced by $1.2 billion, long term investment reduced by $0.4 billion.....Excluding inventory, current assets minus current liability is $4b. Total long term liability $2.8b, long term investment $3.5b. One step closer to cash burn out. Keep in mind that Uncle Sam says Intel owes $2b taxes.

    Man, this company is going BK faster than I projected.

    From this graph, you can see after AMD filed its lawsuit in 2Q05, INTEL started going straight downhill.

    AMD is definitely gaining market share. Now, AMD's revene share of the CPU market is 18.6%.

    • Pentium D chips power the $100 cumputer.

      Well ,maybe with all that inventory they could create a new niche market alongside Dell.
      $100 gets a working computer,including screen
      Maybe even a laptop Running some form of Linux of course.
      Imagine every school kid entering High school being presented with their own Laptop.

      End Result.
      Kids equipted for the future and the end of Microsofts Monopoly.
      This could change the computer industry into the leading edge innovative industry it was a few years ago.
      • 1 problem first

        too many distros, too many different linux variants, and pretty much ALL of them would want to be the one that gets onto those laptops. Since these are likely to be factory produced, or at least produced en-masse, you can trust that there will be a big fight for who gets the position...

        however, the pain given to microsoft by this would be worth the bickering of the distros...
    • We don't want Intel to Die

      The last thing we want to see as the consumer is Intel not making a profit and keeping up with AMD.

      The current competitive market encourages innovation in technology and competitive pricing.

      People will pay for the best and if Intel's next gen of chips really is as much of an improvement as suggested. Intel will be able to charge for it and it won't matter that the stocks of Pentium D's go at little more than cost.

      However I doubt very much that AMD aren't working on something which will impress us in 6 months time.

  • Conroe stability issues and more

    Another missing Conroe benchmark: stability

    We heard stories about Woodcrest servers crapping out all over the place and got rejected by US government. What about Conroe, which is essentially the same chip?

    INQ reported its first hand experience with the new Intel chip.

    Compared to Athlon 64 FX62, the 2.93GHZ Con XE 6800 shows 25-31.8% lead in FarCry, 0% lead in FEAR, 6.7% lead in Quake 4, 10.7% lead in UT 2004 16-bot match. With the exception of FarCry, the CON XE 6800 and Athlon 64 FX62 are within 10% of difference. With K8L promising massive performance and scalability increases over K8, we will see AMD commanding a 40% lead over Conroe in just a few months time, even before Intel is able to ramp Conroe production to 25% of its volume.

    Compared to Pentium XE 955, Athlon 64 FX62 leads 47% in FarCry, leads 30% in FEAR, leads 65% in Quake 4, leads 60.9% in UT2004. No wonder an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ can frag a Pentium Exteme Edition 965. However, I don't remember ever hearing the kind of excitement before from Anand, Tom or anyone else about AMD's massive lead over Pentium XE.

    Athlon 64 FX62 defeats Con XE 6800 in ScienceMark 2.0, demonstrating superior floating point performance. This result is consistent with the SpecFP_rate_2000 results, where an 2P Opteron 2.6GHZ outperforms a 2P Woodcrest 3GHZ. Woodcrest is for entry level 2P market only. x4600 with 8P Opteron outperforms 16P HP Superdome.

    As I pointed out earlier, the Conroe benchmarks prove only one thing: the $7 billion Pentium 4/XE/Celeron inventory Intel has at hand and was touting is a pile of crap and now Intel admits it.

    But that is not all, read what INQ had to say on stability of the Conroe:

    "However, there is still one thing that disturbs me about the Intel Conroes. The load times on our Far Cry tests simply took ages, regardless of whether we used a NetWurst craptecture or Core marchitecture. AMD loads FarCry in a matter of seconds, and in this particular game, we feel like watching Athlon 64 to complete SuperPI after running Conroe for three years. B-o-o-o-ring. A big surprise for me was the fact that Quake 4 gameplay also experienced more hiccups on Conroe platform than it did on a competing AMD platform."

    I suggest SuperPi runners always check the digits output from Conroe and make sure the numbers are right.

    • What are you crabbing about now??

      I read INQ and they are telling a much much different story then the garbage your passing along. How about this INQ quote;

      ?Anyway, the core architecture pulverizes everything, as you can expect. Intel winner, what to say more, especially if you look at the performance per watt ratio per dollar. Competition is becoming boring now.?

      Or how about this;

      ?AMD has never presented AM2 sockets with DDR-2 as giving much more performance.?

      Or how about this from INQ;

      ??the E6400 and the E6700. The latter is a production line Core2 Duo, not an engineering sample. The processors are compared to the FX62, the FX60 and the XE 965; the results never left any doubts. Rarely, if ever, in the history of Intel architecture has the new guard wipe out so evidently the old one. AMD should be ready or they will be in big trouble.?

      I could go on and on, but once again all you are doing is ignoring reality and trying to get hits on your own cheesy biased website.
  • 64 bit?

    Is, or is not, the Core Duo CPU from Intel able to support 64bit OS as in Vista 64 or XP-64? I've heard that the chip does but the chipset doesn't and vice versa. I tried loading Vista-64 on a core duo notebook and got the "not supported" message. What's the story? The articles have been careful not to mention this issue.
    • 64 Bit...

      [b]Is, or is not, the Core Duo CPU from Intel able to support 64bit OS as in Vista 64 or XP-64? I've heard that the chip does but the chipset doesn't and vice versa. I tried loading Vista-64 on a core duo notebook and got the "not supported" message. What's the story?[/b]

      According to Wikipedia, it would seem the answer would be a NO...

      Quoting the relevant passage:

      "no 64-bit (EM64T) support "

      • This ain't Core Duo. This is Core2 whice does support 64 bit

        Conroe is Core2 which does support EM64T for x64 Windows or any other x64 capable OS.
    • 64 bit support

      - "Is, or is not, the Core Duo CPU from Intel able to support 64bit OS as in Vista 64 or XP-64? I've heard that the chip does but the chipset doesn't and vice versa. I tried loading Vista-64 on a core duo notebook and got the "not supported" message. What's the story? The articles have been careful not to mention this issue." -

      I have not heard anything about the conroe supporting 64, but I would think it would since I am running Vista 64 on a Pentium D 930.
    • 64 Bit?

      The Core 2 Duo supports both 32 & 64 Bits.

      The previous generations of Core Duo such as are in laptops are currently only 32 Bit.
    • Core Duo no, Core Duo 2 yes

      The Core Duo processors that are currently available in notebook computers are 32-bit only; they're a dual-core upgrade of the Pentium-M design, using the microarchitecture that goes all the way back to the Pentium Pro (with major upgrades along the way).

      The Core Duo 2 processors (which use a brand-new microarchitecture), starting with the Conroe desktop CPUs that will be available Real Soon Now, are 64-bit capable, and should run 64-bit XP and Vista, as well as 64-bit Linux and Solaris.

      I have not yet seen any benchmarks of their performance running 64-bit software, however; they may be good, or they may be as disappointing as the 64-bit upgraded Netburst processors (Pentium 4 and Xeon) were. The quick summary: AMD64 processors (Athlon 64, Opteron, Turion) run 64-bit Linux FASTER than the 32-bit version of the same distro; Netburst processors run the 64-bit version SLOWER. Depending on how the 64-bit results come in, AMD may remain healthy in the server market even if Conroe causes them major headaches on the desktop.
  • Compatibility issues are nothing new

    There have been differences in the KERNEL-LEVEL instructions between AMD and Intel processors for years now, so the incompatible implementations of virtualization are nothing new. These differences affect the developers of operating systems, but not of user-mode software.

    I don't expect to see significant divergence at the user level in the near future; there may be new high-end features (like SSE2 and SSE3 in the past) that one company will invent and the other will quickly copy, but nothing that will endure.
    • I'll take AMD anyday over Intel

      It all comes down to cost and performance. If Intel would lower the price on their inferior CPU's I might get one. But that will never happen. Even if they make a screamin fast processor, I still won't buy it, because I know the price will be sky high, and I know AMD will come out with a better CPU shortly after. Even the die hard Intel fans know this, unless their head is so far up Intel's rear end they just refuse to acknowledge the facts.
      Oh, and how many AMD television ads have you seen? that is why people buy Intel in the first place, advertizing. If Intel didn't advertize they wouldn't sell much at all, with their overpriced slow products. But what do I know, I am just a stoopid consumer.