Processors cores built on a 65nm process

Paul Boughton

AMD is planning processors with four cores built on a 65nm process later this year, combining three layers of cache on a single chip that is a fore-taste of its architecture for the 45nm generation.

The four cores will each have their own L1 and L2 caches and significant shared L3 cache on the chip to increase the performance but just as importantly to reduce the power consumption.

“There are 6 areas that we are focussed on improving,” said Chuck Moore, senior fellow at AMD, and the cache structure is a key one of these. “We believe this is the right balance,” he said. “For a one processor version you can then use all the L3 for a single thread, and having the memory controller on chip mitigates the size of the caches.”

Other factors include the links between the cores, with a third generation, 5.2Gbit/s version of the HyperTransport communications protocol, an independent north bridge on the chip, and moving to DDR3 memories.

AMD is also planning a new high-performance platform for the PC enthusiast using the four core chip. The 4x4 platform features a four-core, multi-socket processor configuration uniquely possible via AMD's Direct Connect Architecture.

The platform will be designed to be upgraded to eight total processor cores when AMD launches quad-core processors in 2007. Project 4x4 represents system-level enthusiast enhancements and is designed for ultimate multi-tasking performance across gaming, digital video, processor-intensive and heavily-threaded applications.

Moving to 65nm production will drive down the power consumption of the processors, increasing the performance-per-watt of today's AMD Opteron processor-powered servers by approximately 60 percent through 2007, and by approximately 150 percent through 2008.

AMD has demonstrated 65nm products from its newest Fab 36 facility in Dresden, using 65nm process technology jointly developed by a team of AMD and IBM engineers in New York as part of AMD and IBM's process development and research collaboration. AMD also announced that its transition to 45nm technology is accelerating. AMD's plan is to begin initial volume production of 45nm 18 months after initial 65nm production, currently anticipated to be in the mid-2008 time frame.

A new mobile design is planned for the second half of 2007, and includes key architectural advancements allowing for increased power efficiency and battery life in AMD processor-powered mobile platforms. One improvement increases the ability for future AMD dual-core mobile chips to dynamically power one or both cores on or off, and subsequently throttle the chip's HyperTransport technology bandwidth, depending on the notebook's current state and running applications.