AMD Hires Veteran CPU Architect in Jim Keller

Subject: Processors | August 1, 2012 - 05:38 AM |
Tagged: x86-64, x86, MIPS, Jim Keller, arm, amd, Alpha

There has been quite a bit of news lately from AMD, and very little of it good.  What has perhaps dominated the headlines throughout this past year was the amount of veteran AMD employees who have decided (or were pushed) to seek employment elsewhere.  Not much has been said from these departing employees, but Rory Read certainly started things off with a bang by laying off some 10% of the company just months into his tenure.

Now we finally have some good news in terms of employment.  AMD has hired a pretty big name in the industry.  Not just a big name, but a person who was one of the primary leads on two of AMD’s most successful architectures to date.  Jim Keller is coming back to AMD, and at a time where it seems AMD needs some veteran leadership who is very in touch with not just the industry, but CPU architecture design.

Jim was a veteran of DEC and worked on some of the fastest Alpha processors of the time.  Much could be written about DEC and how they let what could have been one of the most important and profitable architectures in computing history sit essentially on the back burner while they focused on seemingly dinosaur age computing.  After the Alpha was sold off and DEC sold away, Jim found his way to AMD and played a very important role at that company.

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The first product was helping to launch the K7, and worked primarily with system engineering.  The vast majority of design work for the K7 was finished by the time he signed on, but he apparently worked quite a bit on integrating it into the new socket architecture that was derived from the DEC Alpha.  Where Jim really earned his keep was in co-authoring the x86-64 specification and being lead architect on the AMD K8 series of processors.  While he left in 1999, the mark he left on AMD is essentially indelible.

After AMD he joined Sibyte (Broadcom) and was lead architect on a series of MIPS processors used in networking devices.  This lasted until 2003 and he again left the company seemingly more prosperous than when he began.

PA-Semi was the next stop and he worked again primarily on networking specific SOCs utilizing the PowerPC architecture.  So far, by counting fingers, Jim has worked on five major ISAs (Alpha, x86, x86-64, MIPS, and PowerPC).  These chips were able to power networking devices with 10 Gb throughput.  PA-Semi was then purchased by Apple in 2007/2008.

At Apple Jim was now Director of Platform Architecture and worked with yet another major ISA; ARM.  Jim worked to develop several major and successful products with the A4 and A5 processors that have powered the latest iPhone and iPad products from the Cupertino giant.  To say that this individual has had his fingers in some very important pies is an understatement.

Jim now rejoins AMD as CVP and Chief Architect of CPU Cores.  He will report directly to Mark Papermaster.  His primary job is to improve execution efficiency and consistency, as well as implement next generation features into future CPU cores which will keep AMD competitive with not only Intel, but other rising competitors in the low power space.  This is finally some good news for AMD as they are actually adding talent rather than losing it.  While Jim may not be able to turn the company around overnight, he does look to be an important piece of the puzzle with a huge amount of experience and knowhow with multiple CPU ISA.  If there is anyone that can tackle the challenges in front of AMD in the face of a changing world, this might be the guy.  So far he has had a positive impact in every stop he has made, and perhaps this could prove to be the pinnacle of his career.  Or it could be where his career goes to die.  It is hard to say, but I do think that AMD made a good hire with Jim.

Source: AMD

ARM, TSMC to Produce 64-bit Processors With 3D Transistors

Subject: Processors | July 24, 2012 - 09:07 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, ARMv8, arm, 64-bit, 3d transistors, 20nm

 

Yesterday ARM announced a multi-year partnership with fab TSMC to produce sub-20nm processors that utilize 3D FinFET transistors. The collaboration and data sharing between the two companies will allow the fabless ARM SoC company the ability to produce physical processors based on its designs and will allow TSMC a platform to further its process nodes and FinFET transistor technology. The first TSMC-produced processors will be based on the ARMv8 architecture and will be 64-bit compatible.

ARMv8.jpg

The addition of 3D transistors will allow the ARM processors to be even more power efficient and suitable for both mobile devices. Alternatively, it could allow for higher clockspeeds at the same TDP ratings as current chips. The other big news is that the chips will be moving to a 64-bit compatible design, which is huge considering ARM processors have traditionally been 32-bit. By moving to 64-bit, ARM is positioning itself for server and workstation adoption, especially with the recent ARM-compatible Windows 8 build due to be released soon. Granted, ARM SoCs have a long way to go before taking market share from Intel and AMD in the desktop and server markets in a big way but it is slowly but surely becoming more competitive with the x86-64 giants.

TSMC’s R&D Vice President Cliff Hou stated that the collaboration between ARM and TSMC will allow TSMC to optimize its FinFET process to target “high speed, low voltage and low leakage.” ARM further qualified that the partnership would give ARM early access to the 3D transistor FinFET process that could help create advanced SoC designs and ramp up volume production.

I think this is a very positive move for ARM, and it should allow them to make much larger inroads into the higher-end computing markets and see higher adoption beyond mobile devices. On the other hand, it is going to depend on TSMC to keep up and get the process down. Considering the issues with creating enough 28nm silicon to meet demand for AMD and NVIDIA’s latest graphics cards, a sub-20nm process may be asking a lot. Here’s hoping that it’s a successful venture for both companies, however.

You can find more information in the full press release.

Source: Maximum PC

Kontron Readying Mini-ITX Form Factor ARM System

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2012 - 11:39 AM |
Tagged: quad core, arm, SoC, Android, xbmc, htpc, mini-itx

This week has been rife with ARM computers. The latest ARM system comes in the form of a mini-ITX form factor motherboard and quad core ARM processor combination from embedded system manufacturer Kontron. Named the KTT30/mITX, it measures 17 cm x 17 cm, the little motherboard provides a plethora of IO ports and the relatively short (depth-wise) motherboard would be great in a HTPC box, assuming the software is there (an XBMC release ported over from the Raspberry Pi build would be nice to see, for example).

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The motherboard is paired with a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor running at 900 MHz, video hardware acceleration coprocessor, and up to 2GB of DDR3L memory. It is reportedly capable of playing back 1080p H.264 videos. Internal connectors include two SD card clots, a SIM card socket, and two mPCIe connectors. Rear board IO includes three USB 2.0 ports (one micro, two regular-sized type A), an HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet NIC, S/PDIF audio, two RS232 serial ports, and three analog audio output jacks.

It looks like a neat little board, though only if the price is right. If it is prohibitively expensive, it may be bumping up against AMD’s APU and accompanying motherboards. And because the APUs can utilize x86-64 software, that is a big positive in its favor. With that said, if this board is cheap enough, it could make sense as the base of a cheap HTPC.

Read more about the Mini-ITX ARM-powered system over at Fanless Tech.

Source: Fanless Tech

Hardkernel Launching Quad Core ODROID-X Android Computer

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2012 - 05:53 AM |
Tagged: SFF, Samsung, linux, hardkernel, Exynos 4, computer, arm

If you are an Android developer and have been itching to get your hands on some high end, quad core hardware, than Korean company HardKernel may have just what you’re looking for. The new ODROID-X is an Android developer board (meaning it comes as just a single board computer sans case or accessories. For $129 plus shipping and customs fees, you can have a 90 x 94mm PCB with a Samsung Exynos 4412 ARM Cortex-A9 quad core at 1.4 GHz (1MB cache), Mali 400 GPU, 1GB RAM, and runs on a 5V, 2A power adapter.

Hardkernel ODROID-X.jpg

IO for the ODROID-X includes headphone and microphone jacks, six USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Ethernet, SDHC card slot, 50-pin GPIO connector, UART serial connector, MIPI-CAM camera connector, HDMI, and a power jack. In other words, it is extremely expandable. It is capable of outputting 1080p video over HDMI when using the H.264 video codec thanks to dedicated hardware acceleration. Hardkernel will happily sell you accessories but you would likely be better off buying it from a local retailer or online shop that is in-country to avoid the extra shipping and customs fees. The power jack and other ports are standard, so there aren’t any worries there. Android 4.0 ICS is reportedly available for download, though no word yet on when the newly announced Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" OS build will be up on the site.

Thanks to the Samsung Exynos 4, you definitely have more oomph than the 700 MHz ARMv7 in the Raspberry Pi, though this board isn’t nearly as small (and costs about four times as much). If you need the extra horsepower, this may be worth considering at this price but be sure figure out the import taxes and shipping for your location to figure out what it will really cost you to get your hands on. Read more about the ODROID-X's specifications over at the Hardkernel website.

Source: Ars Technica

Want to see a four socket ARM server on dual PCIe slots?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2012 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: Calexda, arm, cortex-a9, ECX-1000

Looking at the picture below you can see what Calxeda's ARM based server node will look like, an add-in card which requires two PCIe 2.0 slots to communicate with the mainboard.  On the node are four Cortex A9 CPUs, each with two PCI-Express 2.0 controllers, a DDR3 memory controller, and a SATA 2.0 disk controller, as well as an integrated Layer 2 distributed fabric switch for ethernet connectivity.  The mainboard these are connected to does very little, this server will depend on ethernet for its interconnect for now but it is likely that they will find something else to use though they may end up needing to license from AMD or Intel. 

The Register took a look at the comparative benchmarks which came with this release, an Intel Xeon E3-1240 with one Ethernet port and 16GB of DDR3 which should be roughly equivalent to the new HP Redstone servers.  They had some questions about the methodology used for the power usage on the Intel system as it was not describing the most power efficient usage of the Intel system and perhaps was not representative of the Intel system they actually benchmarked at all.  Check out the benchmark as well as Calxeda's response in the full article.

ElReg_calxeda_four_socket_server.jpg

"Calxeda, the ARM server-chip upstart that HP tapped for its "Redstone" hyperscale servers last November, is getting ready to ramp up production on the server cards that use its quad-core EnergyCore ARM processors, and is making waves with benchmarks while promising to do a better job with comparative testing against x86 architectures."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Can a 12-Core ARM Cluster hit critical mass?

Subject: Processors | June 26, 2012 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: arm, cortex-a9, e-350, i7-3770k, z530, Ivy Bridge, atom, Zacate

Taking a half dozen PandaBoard ESes from Texas Instruments that have a 1.2GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor onboard, Phoronix built a 12-core ARM machine to test out against AMD's E-350 APU as well as Intel's Atom Z530 and a Core i7 3770K.  Before you you make the assumption that the ARM's will be totally outclassed by any of these processors, Phoronix is testing performance per Watt and the ARM system uses a total of 31W when fully stressed and idles below 20W, which gives ARM a big lead on power consumption. 

Phoronix tested out these four systems and the results were rather surprising as it seems Intel's Ivy Bridge is a serious threat to ARM.  Not only did it provide more total processing power, its performance per Watt tended to beat ARM and more importantly to many, it is cheaper to build an i7-3770K system than it is to set up a 12-core ARM server.  The next generation of ARM chips have some serious competition.

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"Last week I shared my plans to build a low-cost, 12-core, 30-watt ARMv7 cluster running Ubuntu Linux. The ARM cluster that is built around the PandaBoard ES development boards is now online and producing results... Quite surprising results actually for a low-power Cortex-A9 compute cluster. Results include performance-per-Watt comparisons to Intel Atom and Ivy Bridge processors along with AMD's Fusion APU."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

 

Source: Phoronix

The Surface Tablet should be cheaper than an Ultrabook, but not by much

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2012 - 10:34 AM |
Tagged: surface, ultrabook, Pegatron, windows rt, windows 8, tablet, microsoft, arm, tegra 3

You've met Microsoft's two new Surface Tablet by now, either in Scott's write up or elsewhere on the net and are aware that there is a less expensive ARM and Tegra 3 version and a more expensive Ivy Bridge model.  What you might not have known is the expected pricing, a lack that DigiTimes remedies this morning with the prediction the WinRT model will cost at least $600 and the Win8 model more than $800.  Both are being assembled by Pegatron Technology but the amount being assembled is still unknown.  The Surface Tablet is certainly attention grabbing but it costs significantly more than other tablets and many full notebooks, but it likely to be lower priced than either Intel or Apple's ultraportable devices which puts it in an odd spot in the market.  How many will be willing to pay that much for a multi-touch tablet with dock?

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"Sources from notebook players have revealed that Microsoft's 10.6-inch Surface tablet PCs will be outsourced to Pegatron Technology for assembly; however, there is still not a firm estimate for order volumes.

The sources also estimated the end-market price of the Windows 8 Pro-based Surface tablet PC with Ivy Bridge processor to be at least above US$799, while the Windows RT-based model, featuring Nvidia's Tegra 3, will be priced above US$599."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: DigiTimes

Podcast #206 - Corsair 550D Chassis, AMD licensing ARM, AMD Tahiti 2 GPUs and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2012 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: tahiti 2, podcast, nvidia, Intel, hsa, corsair, arm, amd, 550d

PC Perspective Podcast #206 - 06/14/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the Corsair 550D Chassis, AMD licensing ARM, AMD Tahiti 2 GPUs and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malvantano and Scott Michaud

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:22:58

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:20 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:02:00 ioSafe SoloPro and Synology DiskStation 212+ Review
  6. 0:13:05 Origin EOS17 Gaming Notebook Review
  7. 0:18:00 Corsair Obsidian 550D Case Review
  8. 0:22:00 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  9. 0:24:10 AMD, ARM, Ti, Imagination and MediaTek for HSA Foundation
  10. 0:34:30 AMD licenses ARM Cortex-A5 for APUs
  11. 0:39:45 Sapphire passive Radeon HD 7770
  12. 0:42:50 ASUS ROG laptop first with 802.11ac
  13. 0:47:50 AMD could be releasing Tahiti 2 GPU next week
  14. 0:49:16 Unreal Engine 4 looks pretty awesome...
  15. 0:55:05 AMD Wireless Display standard coming soon
  16. 0:56:45 Apple does indeed release high-res 15" laptop
  17. 1:02:00 New MacBooks Sporting 6Gb/s Samsung 830 Series SSD Controllers
  18. 1:04:18 AMD Kevari 3rd gen APU to hit 1 TFLOPS performance
  19. 1:06:45 Link_A_Media controller explored
  20. 1:09:45 AMD FirePro W600 launched
  21. 1:13:55 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: That Doctor he was getting drunk with
    2. Jeremy: It's heeere and on the Leaderboard
    3. Josh:  Not for the faint of heart. Or wallet.
    4. Allyn: Windows 8 Release Preview is out
    5. Scott: Mount and Blade: Warband: Napoleonic Wars (because you can never have too many subtitles)
    6. Tim: Corsair Obsidian 550D I've been drooling over this since CES! )
  22. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  23. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  24. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  25. 1:22:00 Closing

 

Live Blog: AMD Fusion Developer Summit 2012 (AFDS)

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | June 14, 2012 - 08:46 AM |
Tagged: live blog, arm, APU, amd, AFDS

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Day 3 - Thursday, June 14th

We are here at AFDS 2012 for the day 3 keynotes - join us as find out what else AMD has in store.  

If you are looking for Tuesday or Wednesday keynotes and information on the announcement of the HSA Foundation, you can find it below, after the break!

AMD Licenses ARM Technology: AMD Leans on ARM for Security

Subject: Processors | June 13, 2012 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: TrustZone, hsa, Cortex-A5, cortex, arm, APU, amd, AFDS

Last year after that particular AFDS, there was much speculation that AMD and ARM would get a whole lot closer.  Today we have confirmed that in two ways.  The first is that AMD and ARM are founding members of the HSA Foundation.  This endeavor is a rather ambitious project that looks to make it much easier for programmers to access the full computer power of a CPU/GPU combo, or as AMD likes to call them, the APU.  The second confirmation is one that has been theorized for quite some time, but few people have actually hit upon the actual implementation.  This second confirmation is that AMD is licensing ARM cores and actually integrating them into their x86 based APUs.

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AMD and ARM are serious about working with each other.  This is understandable as both of them are competing tooth and nail with Intel.
 
ARM has a security functionality that they have been working with for several years now.  This is called ARM TrustZone.  It is a set of hardware and software products that provide a greater amount of security in data transfer and transactions.  The hardware basis is built into the ARM licensed designs and is implemented in literally billions of devices (not all of them enabled).  The biggest needs that this technology addresses are that of secure transactions and password enabled logins.  Money is obviously quite important, but with identity theft and fraud on the rise, secure logins to personal information or even social sites are reaching the same level of importance as large monetary transactions.
 
AMD will actually be implementing a Cortex-A5 processor into AMD APUs that will handle the security aspects of ARM TrustZone.  The A5 is the smallest Cortex processor available, and that would make sense to use it in a full APU so it will not take up an extreme amount of die space.  When made on what I would assume to be a 28 nm process, a single A5 processor would likely take up as little as 10 to 15 mm squared of space on the die.
 
This is not exactly the licensing agreement that many analysts had expected from AMD.  It is a start though.  I would generally expect AMD to be more aggressive in the future with offerings based on ARM technologies.  If we remember some time ago Rory Read of AMD pronounced their GPU technology as “the crown jewel” of their IP lineup, it makes little sense for AMD to limit this technology just to standalone GPUs and x86 based APUs.  If AMD is serious about heterogeneous computing, I would expect them to eventually move into perhaps not the handheld ARM market initially, but certainly with more server level products based on 64 bit ARM technology.
 
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Cortex-A5: coming to an AMD APU near you in 2013/2014.  Though probably not in quad core fashion as shown above.
 
AMD made a mistake once by selling off their ultra-mobile graphics group, Imageon.  This was sold off to Qualcomm, who is now a major player in the ARM ecosystem with their Snapdragon products based on Adreno graphics (“Adreno” is an anagram of “Radeon”).  With the release of low powered processors in both the Brazos and Trinity line, AMD is again poised to deliver next generation graphics to the low power market.  Now the question is, what will that graphics unit be attached to?
 
 
Source: AMD