AMD opens up with four-core processors

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) will launch four-core processors for servers, workstations and high-end desktops by mid-2007, executives said Thursday.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) will ship four-core processors for servers, workstations and high-end desktops by mid-2007, company Chief Technology Officer Phil Hester said Thursday.

The company will also launch a new dual-core design for mainstream desktops around that time. All four new processors will use AMD's new 65-nanometer process chip architecture, he told a room full of analysts at the company's annual Technology Day.

AMD has led Intel in the move to dual-core processors, but Intel is set to raise the ante by shipping four-core chips in mid-2007. AMD's announcement will allow it to match that bid.

In addition to building chips with more processing cores and smaller components, AMD also wants to build more efficient products. On Thursday the company also revealed plans to build a highly efficient dual-core notebook processor, set for release in the second half of 2007.

Power efficiency is a major theme in the company's constant battle with Intel. AMD often claims superior power efficiency, expressed as performance-per-watt. The new family of chips will continue that theme by implementing a system that changes the frequency in each core to match its workload, Hester said.

Compared to today's Opteron processor-powered servers, that approach will boost efficiency by 60 percent in 2007, and 150 percent in 2008.

Likewise, AMD will use a similar approach to control power drain in the next-generation mobile processor. That dual-core chip will switch the power on or off in its cores, using only enough power to match the demands of its workload.

At the analyst event, AMD also disclosed plans to open up its chip design to third-party developers, an effort the company has code-named "Torrenza." AMD hopes the effort will help it gain more partners among PC vendors in its effort to chisel market share away from giant Intel.

Under the Torrenza plan, AMD will share the company's chip design with third-party developers, allowing them to develop application-specific co-processors to work alongside AMD chips in a multisocket system.

The company also shared new market strategies to cut costs for enterprise IT managers by delivering a security bundle and by promoting thin-client computing.

AMD will offer software tools to its OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners, allowing them to reduce IT costs for commercial client and server platforms by linking three features -- security, virtualization and manageability.

These open business models could spell success for AMD in its efforts to enlist more partners, analysts said.

"If Torrenza will play up to their Direct Connect architecture, that means they will be pushing that architecture in general. That is an excellent opportunity to leverage openness and cultivate the entire ecosystem," said Kelly Quinn, an analyst with IDC.

AMD also shed a little light on its roadmap for shrinking the wires and gates on its microprocessors.

AMD's is already making processors using a 90 nanometer (nm) process but by the end of the year it expects to be producing 65-nm process chips. It will move to a 45-nm process by 2008 and shrink to 32 nm by 2010. AMD is even working on 22 nm technology today, in a joint research arrangement with IBM.

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Ben Ames

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