K10: What's in a name?

There's been this confusion over codenames when it comes to what we should call AMD's next-generation micro-architecture. Originally it was referred to by much of the press (and some of AMD) as K8L, and more recently AMD took the stance that K8L was made up by the press and that K10 is the actual name of its next-generation micro-architecture. Lately we've been calling it Barcelona, as that is the codename attached to the first incarnation of AMD's next-generation micro-architecture, destined for the server market. The desktop versions we've been calling Agena (quad-core), Kuma (dual core) and Agena FX for the Socket-1207 quad-core version, once again because those are the product specific codenames listed on AMD's roadmaps.

But when we talk about architecture, is Barcelona based on K8L, K10, or is there even a proper name for what we're talking about? To find out we went straight to the source, AMD's CTO Phil Hester, and asked him to settle the score. According to Hester, K10 was never used internally, despite some AMD representatives using it in reference to Barcelona. By the same measure, K8L does not refer to the micro-architecture behind Barcelona. It sounds like neither K8L nor K10 are correct when referring to AMD's next-generation architecture, so we'll have to continue to use Agena/Kuma/Barcelona in their place.

What happened after K8?

As we're talking about names, there was a project after the K8 that for various reasons wasn't called K9. Undoubtedly there was an internal name, but for now we'll just call it the first planned successor to the K8. The successor to the K8 was originally scrapped, but the question is how far into its development was AMD before the plug was pulled? According to Phil Hester, the project after K8 was in its concept phase when it was canceled - approximately 6 months of time were invested into the project.

So what was the reason for pulling the plug? Apparently the design was massively parallel, designed for heavily multithreaded applications. AMD overestimated the transition to multithreaded applications and made significant sacrifices to single threaded performance with this design. Just as the clock speed race resulted in Intel running straight into a power wall, AMD's massively multithreaded design also ran into power consumption issues. The chip would have tremendous power consumption, largely wasted, given its focus on highly parallel workloads.

The nail in the coffin of AMD's ill fated project was its support for FB-DIMMs. AMD quickly realized that Fully Buffered DIMM was not going to come down in cost quickly enough in the near term to tie its next microprocessor design to it. AMD eventually settled on unbuffered and registered DDR2 instead of FBD.

Without a doubt, AMD made the right decisions with scrapping this project, but it sounds like AMD lost about half a year doing the project. Given that the first K8 was introduced back in 2003, one canceled project doesn't explain why we're here in 2007 with no significant update to the K8's micro-architecture. We couldn't get a straight answer from AMD as to why Barcelona didn't come earlier, but there are a number of possibilities that we have to consider.

Barcelona is AMD's first native quad-core design, which is more complicated than simply sticking two independent dual core die on the same package. AMD committed the cardinal sin in microprocessor design by executing two very complicated transitions at the same time. Not only did AMD build its first native quad-core design with Barcelona, but it also made significant changes to the architecture of each of its cores.

Intel's Mooly Eden, the father of Centrino, once imparted some very important advice to us. He stated plainly that when designing a microprocessor you can change the architecture, or you can change the manufacturing process, but don't do both at the same time. AMD has already started its 65nm transition with its current generation parts, so the comparison isn't totally accurate, but the premise of Mooly's warning still applies: do too much at the same time and you will run into problems, usually resulting in delays.

There's also this idea that coming off of a significant technology lead, many within AMD were simply complacent and that contributed to a less hungry company as a whole. We're getting the impression that some major changes are happening within AMD, especially given its abysmal Q1 earnings results (losing $611M in a quarter tends to do that to a company). While AMD appeared to be in a state of shock after Intel's Core 2 launch last year, the boat has finally started to turn and the company that we'll see over the next 6 - 12 months should be quite different.

AMD in Consumer Electronics New Details on Barcelona Emerge
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  • Regs - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    Tight lipped does make AMD look bad right now but could be even worse for them after Intel has their way with the information alone. I'm not talking about technology or performance, I'm talking about marketing and pure buisness politics.

    Intel beat AMD to market by a huge margin and I think it would be insane for AMD to go ahead and post numbers and specifications while Intel has more than enough time to make whatever AMD is offering look bad before it hits the shelves or comes into contact with a Dell machine.

    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Apparently Intel suspects something is going on as well. One look at the current prices of the E6600 C2D should confirm this, as its currently half the price of what it was a month ago. Unless, there is something else I am missing, but the Extreme CPUs still seem to be hovering around ~$1000 usd.


    Intel cut the price of all the C2D processors by one slot in the tree - the Q6600 to the former price of the E6700, the E6700 to the former price of the E6600, the E6600 to the former price of the E6400, etc. Anandtech covered this a month or so ago after AMD cut prices.

    quote:

    After a while this could be a problem for the consumer base, and may ressemble something along the lines of how a lot of Linux users view Microsoft, wit htheir 'Monopoly'. In the end, 'we' lose flexability, and possibly the freedom to choose what software that will actually run on our hardware. This is not to say, I buy into this beleif 100%, but it is a distinct possibility.


    I wonder as well. Will it be relatively easy to mix and match features as needed? Or will the offerings be laid out that most people end up paying for a feature they don't want for each feature they do?
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    quote:

    I wonder as well. Will it be relatively easy to mix and match features as needed? Or will the offerings be laid out that most people end up paying for a feature they don't want for each feature they do?


    Yeah, its hard to take this peice of 'information' without a grain of salt added. On one hand you have the good side, true integrated graphics (not this shitty thing of the past, hopefully . . .), with full bus speed communication, and whatnot, but on the other hand, you cut out discrete manufactuers like nVidia, which in the long run, we are not only talking about just discrete graphics cards, but also one of the best/competing chipset makers out there.
    Reply
  • Regs - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    The new attitude Anand displays with AMD is more than enough and likely the whole point of the article.

    AMD is changing for a more aggressive stance. Something they should of done years ago.

    Reply
  • Stablecannon - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    quote:

    AMD is changing for a more aggressive stance. Something they should of done years ago.


    Aggressive? I'm sorry could you refer me to the article that gave you that idea. I must have missed while I was at work.
    Reply
  • Regs - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    Did you skim?

    There were at least two whole paragraphs. Though I hate to qoute so much content, I guess it's needed.

    quote:

    Going into these meetings, in a secluded location away from AMD's campus, we honestly had low expectations. We were quite down on AMD and its ability to compete, and while AMD's situation in the market hasn't changed, by finally talking to the key folks within the company we at least have a better idea of how it plans to compete.



    quote:

    There's also this idea that coming off of a significant technology lead, many within AMD were simply complacent and that contributed to a less hungry company as a whole. We're getting the impression that some major changes are happening within AMD, especially given its abysmal Q1 earnings results (losing $611M in a quarter tends to do that to a company). While AMD appeared to be in a state of shock after Intel's Core 2 launch last year, the boat has finally started to turn and the company that we'll see over the next 6 - 12 months should be quite different.

    Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    What is there that is getting anyone excited to upgrade to a new system? We need faster processors and GPUs? Sure, so we can play better games. That's it?

    Now we can do HD content. I would be much more excited about that except it is encumbered to the bone by DRM.

    I just wish we had a competent processor that only needs a heatsink to be cooled.

    quote:

    AMD showed off the same 45nm SRAM test vehicle we saw over a year ago in Dresden, which is a bit bothersome.


    Not sure what you are saying since over a year ago they would have been demoing perhaps 65nm cells, but whatever.

    And as far as Intel reacting, they are already on overdrive with their product releases, FSB bumps, updating the CPU architecture every 2 years instead of 3, new chipsets every 6 months, etc. I guess when you told people we would have 10ghz Pentium 4's and lost your creditbility, you need to make up for it somehow.

    Then again, if AMD shows off benchmarks, what good would it do? The desktop varients we can buy are many months away.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Saturday, May 12, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Not sure what you are saying since over a year ago they would have been demoing perhaps 65nm cells, but whatever

    In April of 2006, AMD demonstrated 45nm SRAM. This was 3 months after Intel did the same...
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    To reply to myself, perhaps the Fusion project is the best thing coming. If we can have a standard set of instructions for cpu and gpu, we will no longer need video drivers, and perhaps we can have a set that works very low power. THAT, is what I want.

    Wish they talked more of DTX.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    I agree with you about only needing a heat sink, I still use Pentium IIIs in most of my machines for exactly that reason. I also prefer slotted processors to the lame socketed ones, but they cost more and are unnecessary so I guess they aren't going to come back. They are so much easier to work with though.

    I wish AMD or Intel would come out with something running around 1.4 GHz that used 10 watts or less. I bought a VIA running at 800 MHz a few years ago, but it is incredibly slow. You're better off with a K6-III+ system, you get better performance and about the same power use. Still, it looks like Intel and AMD are blind to this market, or minimally myopic, so it looks like VIA/Centaur is the best hope there. The part I don't get is why they superpipeline something for high clock speed when they are going for low power. It seems to me an upgraded K6-III would be better at something like this, since by comparison the Pentium/Athlon/Core lines offer poor performance for the power compared to the K6 line, considering it's made on old lithography. So does the VIA, and that's what it's designed for. I don't get it. Maybe AMD should bring it back as their ultra-low power design. Actually, maybe they are. On a platform with reasonable memory bandwidth, it could be a real winner.
    Reply

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