Even More Tweaks

Translation Lookaside Buffers, TLBs for short, are used to cache what virtual addresses map to physical memory locations in a system. TLB hit rates are usually quite high but as programs get larger and more robust with their memory footprint, microprocessor designers generally have to tinker with TLB sizes to accommodate. With K8 AMD increased the size of its TLBs over K7, and with Barcelona AMD is repeating the process once more.

Barcelona's TLBs are slightly larger than K8's, but they now include support for 1G pages which are useful for database applications and virtualized workloads. AMD also introduced a 128 entry 2M L2 TLB with Barcelona, once again to help cope with newer programs using larger page sizes. The TLB improvements to Barcelona won't make any sort of tangible impact on desktop applications, but enterprise performance should improve in server applications with large memory footprints.

When Intel introduced its second Pentium M, codenamed Dothan, one of the enhancements made was a lower integer divide latency. Although details at the time are slim, AMD has indicated that it has moved to reduce integer divide latency in Barcelona as well. We're not sure if the changes implemented are similar in any way to what Intel did with Dothan, but don't expect the performance improvement to be vastly noticeable in real world applications. It's one of those tweaks that will add up to overall more efficient execution but not one that's going to give you double digit performance gains across the board.

In another attempt to effectively "widen" Barcelona without committing a significant amount of transistors to doing so, AMD took a couple of instructions that were microcoded and turned them into fastpath decode instructions. A microcoded instruction takes significantly longer to decode than an instruction able to go through one of the core's fastpath decoders. CALL and RET-Imm instructions are now fastpath, which is a part of Barcelona's sideband stack optimization enhancements. MOVs from SSE registers to integer registers are now fastpath as well.

While on the topic of instructions, AMD also introduced a few new extensions to its ISA with Barcelona. There are two new bit manipulation instructions: LZCNT and POPCNT. Leading Zero Count (LZCNT) counts the number of leading zeros in an op, while Pop Count counts the leading 1s in an op. Both of these instructions are targeted at cryptography applications.

AMD also introduced four new SSE extensions: EXTRQ/INSERTQ, MOVNTSD/MOVNTSS. The first two extensions are mask and shift operations combined into a single instruction, while the latter two are scalar streaming stores (streaming stores that can be done on scalar operands). We may see some of these same instructions included in Penryn and other future Intel processors.

Stacks and Loads of Optimizations A Faster Memory Controller
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  • R3MF - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    thanks.

    a 2.4GHz Agena on an AM2+ mATX motherboard, sat in a tiny SUGO 03 case sounds like a very tempting proposition later on this year.
    Reply
  • Macuser89 - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Is it just me or is this article saying that AMD is copying a lot of intel's advancements. Great in depth article AT. Reply
  • Le Québécois - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    I may be wrong but I think that new CPU or GPU technologies are planned years ahead so for me it look more like they came down to the "same" conclusion on how to improve their CPU. Only Intel did it 1 year before AMD. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    There are fundamentally only so many ways to improve processor performance, and Intel used most of them with Core 2. That AMD is using similar patterns (more buffers, better branch prediction, wider execution, etc.) isn't at all surprising. Just because the same basic principles are used, however, doesn't mean that at the transistor level there aren't significant differences and challenges to overcome. Reply
  • archcommus - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Another great article that displays all the reasons why I read AT - lengthy, technical reviews written by educated authors that are interesting to read and to top it off, with no typing errors! I'm sure you guys use voice software to write these mammoths.

    I was waiting for details on Barcelona for so long and this is finally it. I have no doubt that AMD will be up to par with Intel again, but the question is, will this significantly SURPASS Core 2 offerings at the time? I hope so but it's not a definite thing yet.

    The best thing is, I'm a ways into my computer engineering degree now so I can actually understand a lot of these very techincal articles!
    Reply
  • Le Québécois - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    You said:
    quote:

    ...Barcelona's mid-2007 launch on servers and Q3 '07 launch for desktops...


    But isn't it the same thing?
    I mean mid-2007 is the 1st of july and Q3 also begins with july. Could you be more specific? Maybe the month we can expect them?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Q3 means anywhere between July and late September, while mid-2007 means June or July time frame. As the official launch date approaches, we'll refine things where possible. Reply
  • Le Québécois - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Thank you for your quick reply, as usual. Reply
  • mjrpes3 - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Any word on when the desktop variant of Barcelona (Agena) will find its way into consumer's hands? Reply
  • puffpio - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    When you refer to DDR3 you call it DDDR3
    unless...there is a DDDR3 I don't know about?
    Reply

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