AMD's Eight-Core Server Chip 'Montreal' Due In 2009 - InformationWeek

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AMD's Eight-Core Server Chip 'Montreal' Due In 2009

The company lays out its two-year manufacturing schedule while apologizing to Wall Street for delays in volume production of its quad-core Barcelona processor.

Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday rolled out its two-year product roadmap, promising to deliver an eight-core server chip and a new category of microprocessor that combines a general purpose CPU with an accelerator designed for specific market segments.

In addition, the chipmaker told financial analysts gathered at a meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that its quad-core server chip, which had been codenamed Barcelona, would not be available in bulk until the first quarter of next year, with samples available in early January. The delay in the Opteron-branded product was confirmed this week.

On the financial side, AMD, which has reported a loss in every quarter this year, predicted it would achieve profitability in the second half of 2008.

The product roadmap included plans for an eight-core server processor, codenamed Montreal, in 2009. The new product would be introduced along with the company's first server platform, codenamed Piranha. The platform would feature HyperTransport 3.0 and DDR3 memory technology. HyperTransport is used by AMD for moving data between memory and a processor. DDR3 is for high-speed storage of data.

AMD is calling its new category of microprocessor the accelerated processing unit, or APU. The chip mixes various combinations of general-purpose CPU cores with accelerator cores on a single silicon die. The purpose of the APU is to deliver a product optimized for specific market segments.

As previously announced, the first generation of APUs, codenamed Fusion, is scheduled for release in the second half of 2009. The x86 processors would integrate two CPU cores with a graphics processor, and would require little or no changes to existing programming models, according to AMD.

AMD plans to use the Fusion design in a new processor codenamed Swift, which will be part of a new notebook platform codenamed Shrike. The platform and chip are scheduled to ship in the second half of 2009.

As part of its APU effort, AMD plans to launch an initiative codenamed Bedrock for developing standardized programming models. In addition, the company plans to launch a set of hardware development programs codenamed Torrenza for building separate accelerator cards that would fit in an AMD motherboard and provide an even greater performance boost.

On the manufacturing side, the company said it was on schedule to start production of microprocessors in the first half of next year made with a 45 nanometer process. Rival Intel launched its 45 nanometer process technology this year. The AMD product is scheduled to start hitting the market in the second half of the year. The next generation manufacturing process makes it possible to add far more transistors to a chip than in previous generations, boosting performance without increasing power consumption. AMD also said it was working with IBM on a higher-performing 32nm chip, which would be available in 2010.

AMD also said it would release early next year a "top-to-bottom portfolio" of graphics processors built on the company's latest 55nm manufacturing process for GPUs.

AMD blamed the Barcelona delay on technical problems that were design specific, and not related to manufacturing. While the new server chips launched in September have been available to select customers, AMD had to delay bulk shipments. "We're disappointed in the Barcelona delays," Mario Rivas, executive VP for the company's Computing Products Group, told reporters in a telephone briefing following the analyst meeting.

The technical problems have been corrected, and AMD was moving quickly to get the new product out to all customers next quarter. "We expect to ramp up (production) as aggressively as we can," Rivas said.

AMD is hoping Barcelona will be a successful competitor to Intel's quad-core Xeon processors, which the company has been shipping for about a year.

In its financial update, AMD said it was making progress, and would be profitable in the third quarter of next year. The company has been struggling in the red due to falling chip prices and costs associated with last year's $5.6 billion acquisition of graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies.

This week, the company acknowledged it paid too much for ATI and said it would take a "material" charge for goodwill impairment as a result. AMD did not release the amount.

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