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AMD Shows Off Dual Core Processor

AMD took the wraps off its first ever x86 64-bit dual-core processor during demonstrations held at the company's Austin facilities Tuesday.

The semiconductor maker is showing an HP ProLiant DL585 server powered by four dual-core AMD Opteron processors manufactured on 90nm silicon-on-insulator process technology. Each core contains 1 MB of Level 2 cache.

The ideal of a dual core Opteron is nothing new. Since the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company first discussed its AMD64 (Hammer) technology publicly in 1999, AMD said it would someday support multiple-core processors.

The company said it plans to introduce a full dual-core processor line-up for the one- to eight-socket server and workstation market in mid-2005, based on the existing 940-pin socket.

Dual-core processors for the Athlon64 client market are expected to follow in the second half of 2005. As previously reported, semiconductor manufacturers like AMD and its chief rival Intel are choosing the path of dual-core chips in order to meet the continuing need for faster processing cycles; single-core silicon is beginning to hit a wall of heat dissipation and power consumption.

Intel is scheduled to talk about its dual-core Xeon and Pentium processors during its bi-annual developers conference in San Francisco next week.

AMD said its dual-core processors are a natural extension of its AMD64 technology with Direct Connect Architecture. In addition to breaking bottlenecks commonly found in x86 front-side bus architectures, the processors are staking claims of being the first to directly connect two cores on the same die along with the memory controller, I/O and other processors.

"Once again, AMD is delivering a simplified approach to more efficient processing power, with products that will deliver multi-core 64-bit computing to our strong customer base," Dirk Meyer, an executive vice president with AMD's Computation Products Group said in a statement.

As for its roadmap, AMD said it will continue its transition to 90-nanometer (nm) process and low-power technology. AMD said it is also working with IBM at AMD's Fab 36 to build chips based on 65-nm processes in mid-2005. Those smaller processors are due out in products in 2006.

The dual-core Opteron is a milestone of sorts for the No. 2 chipmaker, which has set in motion an industry-wide transition to bring 64-bit computing to the x86 architecture. The company is also the first chipmaker to apply Enhanced Virus Protection (enabled by the Windows Service Pack 2) in desktop and low-power mobile PC processors.

"Dual-core technology provides an attractive path for increasing processor performance with little or no increase in power consumption or heat dissipation," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at research firm Insight64.

"AMD laid the groundwork for its dual-core processors years ago, when it gave its single-core AMD64 processors the on-chip plumbing they would need to support a second core at a later date. As AMD moves dual-core technology from theory to practice, it is reassuring to see that current investments in core logic and platform technology will remain relevant for years to come."

While AMD may have gotten out of the gate faster, Intel is not far behind. The chipmaking giant's Xeon "Nocona" processor, which was introduced in June, is the first Intel Xeon processor to offer Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (Intel EM64T).

Still, AMD said it likes its chances, considering it has paired up with the likes of HP and Sun Microsystems . Both systems vendors are aggressively using AMD's high-speed, low cost chips to fill in their ProLiant and Sun Fire products respectively.