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Roadmap 2000: Tidbits from AMD and Intel
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You have certainly heard about it, the last quarter (Q1/2000) was AMD's most successful quarter in history. Intel's inability to supply CPUs and the excellent performance as well as availability of the Athlon-processor has finally ended AMD's long line of losses. An earning of $1.15 a share was more than analysts expected of Intel's arch enemy and it shows how well AMD is currently doing. This is not all however; the really successful days of AMD are yet to come, because the future processors look even better than what we've seen of the well-established Athlon so far.

At the same time there have been a lot of changes at AMD that I personally don't really appreciate. Many important and good people have left this company in the last months, starting with the departure of Atiq Raza, AMD's former COO. I will dearly miss men like Dana Krelle , AMD's Ex VP of Marketing and Lance Smith , former Director of Technical Marketing. Both of those two excellent Ex-NexGen executives seem to have been seriously disgruntled by AMD's changing internal policy and I wonder if AMD will do well without them. One thing that I have noticed bitterly is the demise of AMD's dealings with the press. While in the past AMD was a lot more pleasant to deal with than Intel, it now seems as if the new success went to the heads of the few remaining old executives of this chipmaker. Today it's a lot more fruitful and enjoyable to deal with Intel than it is to deal with AMD. Times have changed, but not all to the better.

AMD's Processor Plans For 2000

  • After permanent changes in schedule, 'Spitfire ' will seemingly be launched sometimes in late May or early June this year. This chip is supposed to be AMD's direct answer to Intel's Celeron, but it is expected to perform a whole lot better than Intel's low cost chip. In fact, Spitfire may even surpass the performance of the current Athlon-processors.
    Spitfire is an 0.18 micron aluminum-interconnect die with 64 kB of integrated full speed L2-cache adding to a shrunk and optimized Athlon core. Although the L2-cache size is only a eighth of the L2-cache of current Athlons, it may perform even better due to its 256-bit data path and the fact that it runs at full core clock instead of the 1/2, 2/5 or 1/3 speed of Athlon's external L2-cache. Seemingly, Spitfire will only be manufactured in AMD's Austin Fab25.
    This processor will not be available as a SlotA-version, but is supposed to only ship as SocketA-solution. This socket is AMD's way to get away from the cartridge-solution that is becoming just as obsolete as Intel's Slot1, since there is no need for external L2-cache chips anymore.
  • 'Thunderbird' , AMD's successor of the Athlon, as we know it now, will probably be launched at the same time as 'Spitfire', to make sure that the low-cost 'Spitfire' chip won't perform better than the 'high-cost' Athlon solution. I don't know what name 'Thunderbird will get, but 'Athlon II' would be a viable solution, don't you think? Thunderbird is supposed to start at speeds of no less than 1.2 GHz, but it wouldn't surprise me if AMD will supply slower Thunderbirds as well, replacing the older and slower Athlons.
    'Thunderbird' is still good for several mysteries. Supposedly there will be a version that is using 0.18 micron aluminum interconnect die with 256 kB of integrated full speed L2-cache, produced in Fab25. At the same time the Dresden Fab30 will supply a 0.18 micron copper-interconnect die. I wonder if this die won't sport more L2-cache than its brother from Austin, because I have some information saying that there will also be a Thunderbird with 512 kB on-die L2-cache. Whatever it may be, Thunderbird will be right up there competing against Intel's upcoming 'Willamette' and I recon that it won't have trouble to do so. A shrunk and optimized Athlon core with 256 or 512 kB on-die full speed L2-cache will make today's Athlons look rather pale, and - who knows - may give Willamette a good run for the money as well.
    The first Thunderbirds will come as SlotA version, soon followed by versions for SocketA.
  • Last but not least there is 'Mustang' . This chip will be AMD's entry in the high-end workstation and server market. It's also based on a shrunk and optimized Athlon core, combined with large 1-2 MB on-die L2-caches. Don't expect this processor any time before September of this year, because AMD needs to supply an SMP-chipset for it as well.
    There's not much data about Mustang available right now, but I could imagine that this high-end Athlon will be produced in Dresden's Fab30, taking advantage of the 0.18 micron copper-interconnect technology used in this fab.
    It seems as if Mustang will only be available as SocketA-solution, but this information could be faulty.

AMD's Chipset Plans For 2000

  • 'AMD760' is the name of the next generation AMD chipset for Athlon processors, and it will support SlotA as well as SocketA. The release date seems to be in September, but I guess that AMD will try to release this chipset earlier if they should be able to do so.
    Its features read like this:
    • Support of 200 and 266 MHz FSB (100/133 MHz double-pumped)
    • PC1600 / PC2100 memory = 100 / 133 MHz DDR-SDRAM
    • AGP4x
    • ATA100 (?)
    • SlotA/SocketA
  • Also in September there will be AMD's server/workstation chipset AMD 770 for Mustang. 'Thunderbird will run on it as well though. These are its features:
    • Dual Athlon support , additional north bridges can be combined with AMD's 'LDT'-bus to create systems with 4, 6, 8 CPUs as well. Each north bridge can host 2 Athlons.
    • Support of 200 and 266 MHz FSB
    • PC1600 / PC2100 memory = 100 / 133 MHz DDR-SDRAM
    • AGP4x
    • ATA100 (?)
    • SlotA/SocketA

You might have noticed that I neither commented on Intel's Itanium processor, nor on AMD's upcoming 'Sledgehammer'. Both CPUs are supposed to mark a new era for the PC. Itanium is a completely new 64-bit architecture that doesn't have much in common with the 32-bit x86 processors we know today. AMD's 'Sledgehammer' goes a different way. It will also offer 64-bit extensions, but it will still offer native support of 32-bit software as well.

There's still only wildly speculative data about each processor, although Itanium is obviously much closer to its launch date. I prefer to not comment on any of those processors before we can spot some actual real-world data about each of them.

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