AMD to Give High-Powered Chips an Assist

by David Needle

Co-processors will have a role in future AMD systems.

AMD's 64-bit and dual-core processors are proving to be a formidable competitor to Intel. Although AMD officials aren't shy about touting what it sees as a performance and price-per-watt edge over its larger rival, the company is looking for new ways to differentiate its products.

At a "Technology Day" event at its Sunnyvale, Calif. headquarters Thursday, AMD  will have a coming-out party of sorts for an initiative to develop and promote co-processors.

"The co-processor acceleration space isn't new, but we're looking at new ways to leverage our direct connect architecture," Douglas O'Flaherty, division manager at AMD's Advanced Technologies Group, told internetnews.com. "I think we're on the cusp of a slightly different paradigm of how things work together."

Math co-processors have been offered in the past for PCs, but eventually that functionality was incorporated into x86 processors. Both Intel and AMD can support co-processors, but with Intel systems data has to travel an extra step through its Front Side Bus while the AMD connection is direct.

"The beauty of the approach is that AMD's partners can access all the system memory with the lowest possible overhead and latency to get some pretty astounding performance," Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64, told internetnews.com. "General purpose processors are wonderful but there are some tasks that lend themselves to new approaches."

AMD is able to speeds things up with the HyperTransport technology it developed and integrates on its processors. "PCI-Express used by Intel is proven and works fine, but it adds a layer of indirection," said Brookwood. "The HyperTransport approach is to eliminate the middleman and communicate directly with the processor."

O'Flaherty said AMD will announce a program it's been developing codenamed Torrenza which is designed to encourage third party development of co-processor products. "We're opening up for more partner innovation," said O'Flaherty. "Where we can say to a developer, 'You can connect up to an AMD socket and take advantage of HyperTransport.'"

He mentioned media accelerators, network co-processors and even chips designed specifically to speed Java as likely co-processor products. "We see this as a mainstream opportunity for AMD and its partners."

O'Flaherty added that history could indeed repeat itself over time with AMD incorporating certain co-processor functionality into future version of the Opteron.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

This article was originally published on Friday Jun 2nd 2006
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