Although about the same size, the forthcoming dual-core Opteron will be up to 55 percent faster than today's single-core chips, AMD says.
In addition, AMD said the dual-core Opteron chips will be about the same size and produce the same amount of waste heat as current single-core Opterons, Kevin McGrath, manager of the Opteron architecture, said in a speech at the Fall Processor Forum here. That means the new chips will fit into the existing server designs.
Dual-core chips put two processing engines on the same slice of silicon, a way of letting chips do more work. The change is made possible by moves to more advanced manufacturing processes with smaller features that permit more circuitry to be squeezed into a given area.
AMD has established a foothold with its Opteron processors, bringing the competition Intel faces in desktop and laptop PCs to the server market as well. Opteron has won places in
IBM began the charge to dual-core processors in 2001 with its Power4, while HP and Sun released dual-core versions of their competing chips this year. But AMD thinks it will be first when it comes to dual-core models of the x86 server chips, such as Xeon and Opteron, that are widely used.
"AMD expects to be the first to introduce dual-core" for x86, including models arriving in mid-2005 for workstations and for servers with one to eight chips, McGrath said. In addition, AMD will release a dual-core chip for desktop computers in the second half of 2005.
Intel, which sells the vast majority of x86 server chips despite AMD's inroads, plans to debut dual-core server, workstation and PC chips in 2005. The company professes no concern about AMD's competitive assertions.
"We don't see it as a race," Intel spokesman Otto Pijpker said.
AMD wasn't as restrained. "I think it's easy to say it's not a race if you're second," said Barry Crume, director of AMD's server and workstation business unit.
Today's single-core Opteron, built on a manufacturing process with 130-nanometer features, measures 194 square millimeters, Crume said. The dual-core model, built with a 90-nanometer process, will be within 5 percent of that size, he said.
McGrath also detailed the number of circuitry elements called transistors on the new chip. Single-core Opterons have 106 million transistors, while the dual-core model has 205 million transistors, he said.
Each core has its own 1MB section of high-speed cache memory, McGrath said.
The size of the performance increase going to the new processor depends on the speed of the two chips. Comparing a computer today with one that uses two chip sockets with 90-nanometer processors, performance increases between 30 percent and 55 percent on various benchmarks, McGrath said. The dual-core models run 600MHz to 1GHz slower than the single-core models to prevent overheating problems, he said.
"We're very pleased with the performance numbers we're getting now," he said in an interview.