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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  • TwistyKat - Friday, March 02, 2007 - link

    I remember a comment an IBM exec made in an online interview a few years back when it indirectly implied that AMD would not be around in five years. It was unclear exactly what he meant by that. Reply
  • zsdersw - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Fortunately for all of us, most people aren't like you. Reply
  • bamacre - Thursday, March 01, 2007 - link

    Yup, AMD is selling at prices so low, they must be losing money. Dell isn't paying shlt for amd cpu's, as you can tell from their pricing. Reply

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