RealTime IT News

AMD's Hammer, Transmeta's TM6000 Chips

The annual Microprocessor Forum conference in San Diego always brings enough processor PowerPoints to send CPU buffs spinning. Today, even while it introduced new Athlon MP chips for dual-processor workstations and servers, AMD revealed some details of its long-awaited, 64-bit "Hammer" architecture for servers with as many as eight processors, scheduled for production in the second half of 2002. And at the opposite end of the power spectrum, Transmeta Corp. announced an ultra-integrated, ultra-low-power processor for next year's tablet PCs and PDAs.

Unlike Intel's start-from-scratch, 64-bit Itanium, AMD insists, Hammer will let IT managers move to 64-bit software while preserving their investment in -- indeed, delivering unbeatable performance with -- 32-bit applications. Its X86-64 technology builds on, instead of replacing, the familiar X86 instruction set, while addressing huge amounts of physical and virtual memory (thanks to 40- and 48-bit address spaces, respectively) and providing native 64-bit integer and address register files and data paths.

The Hammer architecture combines an eighth-generation, 0.13-micron-process core with integrated Northbridge; a DDR memory controller to significantly reduce DRAM latency; separate Level 1 instruction and data caches; a Level 2 cache; and HyperTransport input/output technology for high-bandwidth, chip-to-chip communication and support for glueless multiprocessing.

The "ClawHammer" CPUs expected in the second half of next year will support 1- and 2-way desktop, workstation, and midrange server platforms, while their "SledgeHammer" cousins will scale to 4- and 8-way multiprocessing. AMD promises that 4-way systems will be able to achieve up to 8GB/sec of aggregate memory copy bandwidth, compared to today's fastest bus-based systems' 3.2GB/sec theoretical and 2.1GB/sec real-world bandwidth, while 8-way systems will address up to 64 DIMMs or 128GB of physical memory, with four HyperTransport links providing I/O capacity up to 25GB/sec.

As for Transmeta, the Crusoe TM6000 -- due in the second half of 2002 at speeds up to 1GHz -- replaces three or four chips, including a graphics controller and both Northbridge and Southbridge chipset components, with a single X86 microprocessor that takes about one-third the board space and draws less power than even Transmeta's current Crusoe subnotebook solutions.

The company says this unprecedented level of integration will permit PDAs capable of running Windows XP, not Windows CE, or make room for additional functionality (such as wireless networking) in the smallest embedded devices. Battery life will be enhanced, because the TM6000 applies Transmeta's LongRun power management technology to the graphics and chipset features as well as the CPU.

Eric Grevstad is managing editor of sister site HardwareCentral.com.