Athlon's First Chipset AMD 750 'Irongate'
We've just heard that Athlon is using the proprietary SlotA and the in x86-circles so far unknown EV6 bus protocol, thus we conclude that Athlon needs a dedicated chipset as well. The first one comes from AMD and is called 'Irongate' or the AMD-750 chipset. A closer look at it doesn't reveal anything exciting, it's pretty similar to Intel's BX-chipset, equipped with all the usual features we know and like. It does without any fancy 'Intel Hub Architecture', but it offers all we need. You may expect a new memory type or a faster memory bus, but so far Irongate is conservative. Why shouldn't it be? The performance with PC100 SDRAM is already better than PIII 600 on BX, and I doubt that Camino will make much of a difference. AMD is planning to implement PC133 support as well as DDR-SDRAM support, which would go hand-in-hand with the DDR-speed of the EV6 bus just fine. Even RDRAM seems to be a future option. AGP4x will of course also be included and ATA-66 is already supported by the current Irongate-version.
Currently it looks as if Irongate's memory and AGP-performance is not quite up to speed with Intel's BX-chipset. AMD is working on this issue, which should make us confident, that Athlon will beat Pentium III even more once those issues are resolved.
Those things will most likely not be designed by AMD anymore though. AMD wants to focus back onto the CPU-business and the Taiwanese chipset manufacturers lead by VIA will take over for the Athlon chipsets. The only thing that is not quite clear to me yet is the issue with SMP-chipsets. I couldn't recall that any of the Taiwanese chipset makers has any experience with SMP. Thus I would imagine that DEC might change its 'Tsunami' chipset to work with Athlon. After all the performance of Athlon is so high, that it would be a perfect CPU for workstations and servers. This will require an SMP-platform.