AMD Unveils New Strategy for Server Silicon

By Michael Feldman

February 7, 2012

AMD is plotting a relatively conservative roadmap for its Opteron CPUs over the next year or two, even as it preps its heterogenous computing technology for the big leap into the server arena. At the company’s 2012 Financial Analyst Day last week, AMD execs re-pledged their commitment to the server market and outlined a strategy that puts less emphasis on high performance cores and design complexity and more on power efficiency and building SoC products tailored to specific datacenter workloads.

In the near term though, it will be very much business as usual for the Opteron line. The big news (or non-news) is that AMD will not follow the top-of-the-line 16-core Interlagos chip with a 20-core successor — the so-called “Terramar” CPU. Instead, the company will offer “Abu Dhabi,” which, like its predecessor, tops out at 16 cores. It also uses the same processor technology (32nm) and offers the same memory support (quad-channel DDR3) There is no support for PCIe Gen 3, which was skipped for this go-around with the rationale that the newer, faster bus interface won’t be needed “until the market is better positioned for wide adoption of that very high-end technology.”

Abu Dhabi and the other next-generation Opterons (“Seoul” and “Delhi”) will be based on a new core architecture, known as “Piledriver,” and are scheduled to be launched in the second half of 2012. Rather than a complete redesign, Piledriver appears to be a tweak of the modular CPU design AMD pioneered with Bulldozer last year. The architectural enhancements include new ISA extensions and improved IPC. Essentially AMD is doing two tocks (microarchitecture redesign) in a row, with no intervening tick (process technology shrink).

The chipmaker’s conservative Opteron strategy may reflect some new thinking there. According to AMD’s new CTO, Mark Papermaster, in the past the company has put too much effort squeezing the last ounce of performance out of the cores, using extra design complexity to compensate for second place in semiconductor manufacturing. “We’ve gone after that last two to three percent performance, and historically it’s led to a longer development cycle,” said Papermaster. According to him, the new focus is on time-to-market and using hardware-software codesign to deliver application platforms, rather than just silicon.

Lisa Su, Senior Vice President and General Manager or AMD’s Global Business Units, said the decision not to scale up the core count on the next-generation Opterons was the result of customer feedback. According to her, rather than wanting more cores, their server clients were just interested upgraded Opteron parts that could be plugged into the existing G34 and C32 sockets. In any case, since AMD has no fab partner that is ready to move to a sub-32nm process, there really wouldn’t be additional die space available for more cores, caches, and bigger memory controllers without a much more drastic microarchitecture design.

According to Su, the new Piledriver cores will deliver more performance at the same TDP, although, at this stage, AMD is not offering any numbers that would shed light on those improvements. If the company can eke out some additional FLOPS from the Piledriver cores, along with some interesting ISA extensions, that’s probably their best shot at competing against Intel’s Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs (E5 series), which are built on 22nm technology. The Xeon E5 CPUs are already installed in a number of top supercomputers, although the chips are not officially launched yet.
 
Delphi, in case you were wondering, is the successor to the not-yet-released Zurich CPU, which is based on the current generation Bulldozer core. Zurich is slated for release in the first half of 2012. These 1P processors will inhabit a new socket known as AM3+, code-named “Jakarta.” They are being targeted to light-weight web serving and related microserver space, which Intel has recently made a play for with its low-power Xeons and higher-end Atom chips.

Beyond Piledriver, is the Steamroller architecture, another modular CPU design that promises greater parallelism, which could mean either more cores or simultaneous multi-threading or both. After Steamroller come “Excavator,” a microarchitecture that focuses on greater performance. No dates were attached to either of these designs but 2013 and 2014, respectively, would be likely timeframes.

Of course, the other side of AMD is their GPU portfolio. But it’s notable that none of the product talk during the Financial Analyst Day mentioned the company’s FireStream offerings, the company’s discrete GPU accelerators aimed at high performance computing. In the face of nearly complete dominance of NVIDIA’s Tesla products for this space, it’s likely that AMD has ceded this market to its rival, at least for the time being.

Where AMD has a clear advantage is its ability to marry its CPU and GPU logic onto integrated heterogeneous chips, which they call APUs (accelerated processing units). All the APUs the company has developed to date have been targeted to client devices — desktops, notebooks and soon tablets. Not surprisingly, company execs devoted much attention to the APU client roadmap during the Analyst Day. But there was also a fair amount of discussion about migrating APU designs into the server space.

In particular, AMD sees custom datacenter workloads in areas like multimedia web serving, search engine processing, visual rendering, high performance computing as an opportunity for GPU acceleration in their heterogeneous computing platforms. One aspect to this is that they intend to be able to build SoC products in a modular way that combines x86 cores with their GPU designs, and do it in such a way as to tailor different chip designs to different workloads. AMD is even willing to incorporate third-party IP blocks into these SoCs, for example, fixed-function cores aimed at very specific types of processing like codec encoding/decoding.

The logic behind this strategy is that because many of these workloads are feeding the boom in web-connected mobile devices, there is a huge and rapidly growing market for such server infrastructure. “You’re not just talking about racks and racks of servers that just care about power and performance,” said Su, “you’re talking about specialty workloads, and it actually will fragment the server market a bit.”

Citing IDC numbers, AMD points to projected compounded annual growth rates of 15 percent, for cloud-based web applications; 13 percent, for virtualized workloads; and 7.3 percent, for high performance computing, over the next three years. Whether those numbers pan out as forecast and are enough to support volume production of specialized SoCs remains to be seen, but AMD doesn’t want to left with its one-trick Opteron pony if the server market starts to fragment.

Executing on that strategy is going to be the principle challenge for AMD. In the short-term, it has to find a way to get its server market share above the single-digit level — 5 to 7 percent in 2011, by most estimates — on the merits of its Opteron line. But the more difficult task ahead will be moving its heterogeneous technology into the datacenter. Although AMD has more of the pieces in place than its competitors, the heterogeneous waters here are uncharted. Nimbleness will be well-rewarded.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 12, 2017)

January 12, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

NSF Seeks Input on Cyberinfrastructure Advances Needed

January 12, 2017

In cased you missed it, the National Science Foundation posted a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) late last week seeking input on needs for the next generation of cyberinfrastructure to support science and engineering. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization: An Integral Technology for Upstream Oil & Gas

As the exploration and production (E&P) of natural resources evolves into an even more complex and vital task, visualization technology has become integral for the upstream oil and gas industry. Read more…

NSF Approves Bridges Phase 2 Upgrade for Broader Research Use

January 12, 2017

The recently completed phase 2 upgrade of the Bridges supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF) making it now available for research allocations to the national scientific community, according to an announcement posted this week on the XSEDE web site. Read more…

By John Russell

Clemson Software Optimizes Big Data Transfers

January 11, 2017

Data-intensive science is not a new phenomenon as the high-energy physics and astrophysics communities can certainly attest, but today more and more scientists are facing steep data and throughput challenges fueled by soaring data volumes and the demands of global-scale collaboration. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Fast Rewind: 2016 Was a Wild Ride for HPC

December 23, 2016

Some years quietly sneak by – 2016 not so much. It’s safe to say there are always forces reshaping the HPC landscape but this year’s bunch seemed like a noisy lot. Among the noisemakers: TaihuLight, DGX-1/Pascal, Dell EMC & HPE-SGI et al., KNL to market, OPA-IB chest thumping, Fujitsu-ARM, new U.S. President-elect, BREXIT, JR’s Intel Exit, Exascale (whatever that means now), NCSA@30, whither NSCI, Deep Learning mania, HPC identity crisis…You get the picture. Read more…

By John Russell

AWI Uses New Cray Cluster for Earth Sciences and Bioinformatics

December 22, 2016

The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), headquartered in Bremerhaven, Germany, is one of the country's premier research institutes within the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, and is an internationally respected center of expertise for polar and marine research. In November 2015, AWI awarded Cray a contract to install a cluster supercomputer that would help the institute accelerate time to discovery. Now the effort is starting to pay off. Read more…

By Linda Barney

Addison Snell: The ‘Wild West’ of HPC Disaggregation

December 16, 2016

We caught up with Addison Snell, CEO of HPC industry watcher Intersect360, at SC16 last month, and Snell had his expected, extensive list of insights into trends driving advanced-scale technology in both the commercial and research sectors. Read more…

By Doug Black

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Genomics Pipeline Combines AWS, Local HPC, and Supercomputing

September 22, 2016

Declining DNA sequencing costs and the rush to do whole genome sequencing (WGS) of large cohort populations – think 5000 subjects now, but many more thousands soon – presents a formidable computational challenge to researchers attempting to make sense of large cohort datasets. Read more…

By John Russell

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Paves Way for Better Diagnostics

September 19, 2016

Stanford researchers are leveraging GPU-based machines in the Amazon EC2 cloud to run deep learning workloads with the goal of improving diagnostics for a chronic eye disease, called diabetic retinopathy. The disease is a complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness if blood sugar is poorly controlled. It affects about 45 percent of diabetics and 100 million people worldwide, many in developing nations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This