Thursday, December 01, 2005

SUN needs AMD's help

Judge from this article, SUN is probably quite ahead in multi-core design, its UltraSparc T1 has 8 cores and consumes less than 80 watts. Quite amazing. But SUN should not be too cocky.

The problem is, each of the Niagra core runs only at 1.2GHZ, so it's like a 9.6GHZ chip in some sense. AMD is not too far behind. AMD can probably beat UltraSparc T1 with quad-cores. First, AMD needs at least two memory controller per quad-core CPU, I believe socket F's 1207 pins are partly for an extra memory controller, then AMD has to control the power consumption. It is not a major problem, the 2.2GHZ Turion MT-40 has a maximum thermal output of 25 watts. Packing 4 such cores, it's within 100 watts. AMD may also get some heat reduction from its 65nm process. So AMD is very close to introduce quad-core at 2.2GHZ.

SUN is disadvantaged because it does not have its own FAB and has no experience in manufacturing, it is at the mercy of others such as Texas Intruments when it comes to clock speed. AMD is the master in terms of semiconductor process, and it knows how to tweak things and make faster chips. Maybe SUN can contract its UltraSparc T1 production to AMD. AMD's DSLSSOI process can increase frequency by 30%, that will make the Niagra running at 1.6GHZ, a much more competitive situation against Power5.

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