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Keeping AMD’s 2011 Code-Names Straight

AMD’s Bulldozer And Bobcat Architectures Pave The Way
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AMD is juggling a ton of jargon, from far-reaching initiatives to very specific logic designs. The following list should help clarify some of what the company is doing. We’ll start with the broadest concepts and narrow it down to the hardware you’ll see turned into actual products.

Initiatives:

Fusion: AMD is using the word Fusion to describe an approach to processor design and software development, in its words: “…delivering powerful CPU and GPU capabilities for HD, 3D and data-intensive workloads in a single-die processor called an APU (accelerated processing unit). APUs combine high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with other special-purpose hardware accelerators, enabling breakthroughs in visual computing, security, performance-per-watt and device form factor.”

In short, an APU designed according to AMD’s Fusion initiative will include a CPU and a GPU on a single piece of silicon. The improvements an APU are expected to deliver include: enhanced mainstream gaming performance and accelerated video transcoding, to name a couple of specific examples.

Microarchitectures:

Bulldozer: One of two new x86 architectures, Bulldozer will be used in performance desktops and servers. Bulldozer-based modules will serve as the basis for AMD’s next generation of processors. The company has already confirmed that it’ll maintain socket compatibility with existing Magny-Cours-based Opteron processors. Thus, you can expect to see Bulldozer-based CPUs dropping into existing server boards and, likely, Socket AM3 desktop platforms as well. AMD’s target power use for Bulldozer-based chips is between 10 and 100 W.

Bobcat: The second of two new x86 architectures, Bobcat is aimed at the low-power, ultrathin notebook and netbook spaces. Expect Bobcat-based cores to go up against Intel Atom and Via Nano. AMD has aspirations of hitting a sub-1 W power ceiling, though there will likely be models exceeding that figure. Bobcat is designed to be synthesizable, meaning AMD can build it into complementary logic blocks more easily than a processor laid out by hand. In other words, expect to see Bobcat CPUs rolled into AMD’s Fusion initiative.

Platforms:

Sabine: Mainstream mobile platform based on the Llano APU, which will see a quad-core Stars-based CPU and DirectX 11-class graphics processor tied together on the same piece of silicon, manufactured using 32 nm lithography. Sabine is expected to arrive in 2011.

Brazos: Ultra low-power mobile platform based on the Ontario APU, which will see a dual-core Bobcat-based CPU and DirectX 11-class graphics processor tied together on the same piece of silicon. Brazos is expected to arrive in 2011, and will allow AMD to drive netbooks, along with form factors the company’s hardware hasn’t yet appeared in (possibly tablets).

Scorpius: Enthusiast desktop platform based on AMD’s Zambezi processor and discrete graphics (AMD, of course, specifies an ATI GPU). The platform requires a quad-core CPU or higher, DDR3 memory, and a revised Socket AM3 interface. Availability is expected in 2011.

Lynx: Mainstream desktop platform based on AMD’s Llano APU. It’ll feature up to four CPU cores, a single graphics core (integrated onto the APU, naturally), and DDR3 memory. Availability is expected in 2011.

Components:

Llano: This is going to be AMD’s first APU, combining a quad-core Stars-based CPU and DirectX 11-class GPU on a single piece of silicon. It’ll be manufactured using a 32 nm SOI process, support DDR3 memory, and include core-level power gating. Because there are brand new capabilities in play here, it should surprise no one that Llano will drop into a new socket interface. Availability is expected in 2011.

Ontario: While the Llano APU absorbs much of AMD’s risk in shifting to 32 nm manufacturing (since it employs a familiar CPU microarchitecture and more mature manufacturing process), Ontario will be the first APU to employ AMD’s Bobcat CPU microarchitecture. Ontario is manufactured at 40 nm, armed with DirectX 11-class graphics, and expected in 2011.

Zambezi: Per AMD, Zambezi will be the first desktop processor based on the company’s Bulldozer architecture. Featuring as many as eight cores, Zambezi-based offerings will incorporate as many as four processor “modules.” AMD plans to use 32 nm manufacturing, and early reports suggest Socket AM3 compatibility (along with DDR3 memory support). Zambezi is not an APU, but rather is meant to be paired with discrete graphics.

Interlagos/Valencia: Respective code-names for AMD’s upcoming 16-core and eight-core Opteron processors, respectively, both based on the Bulldozer microarchitecture. Interlagos will drop into the existing G34 interface, while Valencia is C32-compatible. Both families will be manufactured using 32 nm SOI lithography, will support DDR3 (including load-reduced DIMMs and 1.25 V memory modules), and are expected in 2011.

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