Published in PC Hardware

AMD tapes out its Bulldozer CPU architecture

by on18 July 2010


Mass production to begin in 1H 2011

On Friday, AMD announced that it has successfully taped out its much delayed Bulldozer architecture and hopes to begin sampling working chips with customers shortly. The company's new high-end architecture will be fabricated on the 32nm process at Globalfoundries and is expected to sample throughout the second half of 2010.

We recently reported that AMD's 32nm Zambezi eight-core processor, the first to release in the Bulldozer lineup, will use a modified AM3 r2 socket and should feature 8MB of L3 cache, should support DDR3 1866MHz speeds, and should be paired with the Scorpio platform. The company has also stated that Interlagos is the server codename for its 32nm, sixteen-core Opteron 6000 series processors based on socket G34 which will be paired with the Maranello platform.

According to an unofficial source familiar with the company's server plans, AMD intends to begin mass production of its 12-core and 16-core Interlagos server processors in the first half of 2011. A source at XbitLabs has noted that Interlagos features two 32nm SOI chips codenamed Valencia with six or eight cores on the same substrate.Other versions of Bulldozer with reduced power consumption and increased performance for the desktop market were planned to be produced in the second half of 2011.


"In the second quarter of this year we also taped out the first 32nm product based on our new high-performance Bulldozer CPU core. We plan to begin sampling our Bulldozer based server and desktop processors in the second half of this year and remain on track for 2011 launches. These new processors will deliver significant performance improvements to the AMD platform," said Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of AMD, during the quarterly conference call with financial community.

To reiterate on the technology development process behind this fabrication stage, the tape out on Bulldozer means AMD has finished the artwork for the photomask of the circuit architecture and has sent it to GlobalFoundries for manufacturing into a physical chip package. Back in October 2009, we hinted that AMD's new architecture should be coming in the second part of 2011. In perspective, this is the company's only hope to catch up with Intel as it continues the Tick-Tock development cycle and replaces its Nehalem architecture with 32nm Sandy Bridge in early 2011. However, nothing is made specifically clear, and the mass production schedule doesn't necessarily coincide with the official launch schedule. This means that the multi-core chips have an equal chance of coming out in the first and second halves of next year. In the silicon manufacturing industry, the average time from tape out to general release for CPUs is about 9 to 12 months, and with a tape out in mid-July 2010, Bulldozer is well on its way to a Q2 or Q3 release in 2011.

Meanwhile, the company has also announced that it will dramatically switch the timing of its dual-core 40nm Ontario and 32nm Llano Fusion production ramps due to slower than anticipated progress of its 32nm yield curve. "Llano production shipments are still expected to occur in the first half of next year," said Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of AMD, during a conversation with financial analysts. "We have seen the rate of yield leaning below our plans on 32nm, [and] we will take a bit more time to work on the 32nm yields up the curve. So, the effective change to our internal plans on Llano amounts to a couple of months," said Mr. Meyer. More on that here.

AMD is expected to shed some more light on its upcoming Bulldozer and Bobcat architectures at the Hot Chips conference hosted at Stanford University in August.

Last modified on 18 July 2010
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