AMD reveals new details on upcoming Bulldozer chips

At the annual Hot Chips conference, AMD provided some new details on the innovative Bulldozer architecture behind the upcoming FX Series for desktops and Opteron server processors.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

Within the next week or so AMD should begin shipping its FX Series processors, its first high-end chip based on an entirely new core design since the introduction of the Family 10h, better-known as Barcelona, almost exactly four years ago. At the annual Hot Chips semiconductor conference last week, AMD provided some new details on the innovative Bulldozer architecture behind both the FX Series for desktops and new Opteron server processors.

The new processor includes four Bulldozer modules, each of which contains eight AMD64 cores, and an integrated memory controller. What makes the Family 15h design different, though, is that each module shares several components including a front-end (fetch and decode), floating-point unit, data prefetch unit, and 2MB of L2 cache. AMD's Sean White said the shared units made it possible to pack more cores on a smaller die and to increase the horsepower of the floating-point unit. "The gist of what AMD is trying to do is use the area and the power in the cores as efficiently as possible," White said.

Bulldozer has several new instructions including some that are in both AMD and Intel processors (SSE, encryption, and AVX for floating-point operations) and some unique to AMD that fill in some holes including FMA4 for HPC applications and XOP for numeric, multimedia, and audio/radio applications. AMD also revealed that Bulldozer will support DDR3 memory at speeds up to DDR3-1866. It includes new power management features and AMD's Turbo Core that temporarily boost performance on single-threaded applications. The eight-core Bulldozer processor is manufactured by Globalfoundries on its 32nm SOI (Silicon-On-Insulator) process, like the A-Series APUs for mainstream laptops, and it measures 315 square millimeters.

The first Bulldozer processor is the socket AM3+FX Series (code-named Zambezi) for desktops with eight cores and two memory channels for U-DIMMs up to DDR3-1866. The FX Series is designed to be used with AMD Radeon HD discrete graphics and the AMD 9-Series chipsets. Older Family 10h processors (Phenom II) are plug-in compatible with AM3+ motherboards. I've previously written about AMD's FX Series (AMD bets on Bulldozer to take back the desktop).

Bulldozer is also designed to be used in new server processors that should start shipping in September. The low-end server processor, Valencia, is designed for one or two-socket server using the existing socket C32 motherboards (Opteron 4000 series) with a BIOS update. It has eight cores and two memory channels that support U-DIMMs, R-DIMMs or LR-DIMMs up to DDR3-1600. At the higher-end, Interlagos is designed for one- to four-socket servers using the existing G34 (Opteron 6000 series) socket, also with a BIOS update. Interlagos has two separate dies with a total of 16 cores in a single multi-chip package. The operating system sees Interlagos as a single processor with up to 16 cores and up to 16MB of L3 cache. Interlagos has four memory channels supporting U-DIMMs, R-DIMMs or LR-DIMMs up to DDR3-1600.

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