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The AMD FAQ Section II

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

* AMD Products
* x86 microprocessors
* Flash memory
* Embedded microprocessors
* Networking products
* What is flash memory?
* What is AMD doing to innovate flash memory?
* Who buys AMD processors?
* Previous Generation Microprocessors
* K5, K6
* What is the Athlon?
* What is the Duron?
* What is the Thunderbird?
* What is the Mustang?
* What is the Hammer or the K8?
* Opteron
* What is 3DNow!?
* What is PowerNow!?
* What is a chipset and who makes them for AMD PC processors?
* Can I use multi-processing on these chips like I can with Pentium chips?
* What is Hyper Transport?
* What is SDRAM, DDR-SDRAM, VC-RAM, Rambus Direct DRAM?
* What is DDR-SDRAM?


AMD Products
AMD makes a number of different products including x86 microprocessors, Flash memory devices, embedded microprocessors, and networking products.

X86 Microprocessors
Currently, the largest portion of AMD's revenue comes from their x86 line of microprocessors. AMD is active in every segment of the mainstream desktop market, high-end mobile systems, and soon Thin and Light mobiles. AMD also offers server level systems in dual processor configuration. AMD plans to move into the enterprise level market some time in 2003 with its 8th generation microprocessor, named Opteron.
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118,00.html

Flash Memory
AMD is a world leader in Flash memory technology, second only to Intel. There is an enormous wealth of Flash information available on AMD's website at the following link:
http://www.amd.com/us-en/FlashMemory/ProductInformation/0,,37_1447,00.html

Embedded microprocessors
AMD offers a number of embedded microprocessors, and details can be found at:
http://www.amd.com/epd/index.html

More information on Alchemy based embedded products can be found at:
http://www.alchemysemi.com/

Networking products
For the latest information about AMD's networking products, see their website:
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Networking/ProductInformation/0,,50_2330,00.html

Discussing x86 microprocessors is complicated, so we will look at Flash first.

What is flash memory?
"Today, Flash Memory is revolutionizing system design with non-volatility, in-system reprogrammability, and high density. And AMD is taking this revolution to the limit by developing Flash Memory with new innovative features, more low-power options, greater packaging choices, and smaller geometries.

All AMD Flash Memory devices are guaranteed by AMD for a minimum of one million write cycles per sector and 20 years' data retention, making them the most reliable non-volatile memory devices in the industry. And all AMD Flash Memory devices are QS-9000 certified. "
http://www.amd.com/us-en/FlashMemory/ProductInformation/0,,37_1447,00.html

Who buys AMD flash memory?
If you take a look at endorsements for AMD's Flash Products, you'll get a better idea about AMD's Flash customer base:
http://www.amd.com/us-en/FlashMemory/FlashApplications/0,,37_1736_1741_2996,00.html

Additionally, AMD's Flash is marketed toward set-top boxes, the automotive industry, the cellular market, and the telecom and networking sector.

What is AMD doing to innovate Flash memory?
MirrorBit is AMD's answer to the highly competitive, low margin Flash market. It will allow AMD to cut costs, boost margins, and maintain the performance and reliability the market demands from state of the art Flash technology. More information about MirrorBit can be found:
http://www.amd.com/us-en/FlashMemory/ProductInformation/0,,37_1447_2248,00.html

PC Processors
Some valuable technical information about x86 CPUs and processors in general can be found at the following links:
http://www.aceshardware.com/list.jsp?id=1
http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT021300000000

Who buys AMD processors?
Typically, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). AMD has a strong presence in non-American markets and in the white box sectors of the market. AMD does have some limited US presence via HP and Compaq, but most of their strength comes from companies outside the US. AMD also has a strong DIY (Do It Yourself) presence with enthusiasts that prefer to build their own systems.

Previous Generation Microprocessors
AMD's in house microprocessor development started with the K5 and K6 series of chips. They made chips before then as well, but that, as they say is history. Technically, these chips are history as well, but they are significant since they show you how AMD has evolved from a second source CPU supplier, to become a designer and manufacturer of world-class high-performance and reliable CPUs.

K5
Jerry Sanders wanted technology to combat semiconductor super giant, Intel (Superman, if you will). Kryptonite was Superman's weakness, and Jerry Sanders hoped that AMD's in-house developed K series of microprocessors would be kryptonite against Intel's monopoly in the market place.

Noted for a failed attempt at using PR numbers, it is clear that from the beginning AMD recognized the importance of a high performance IPC (Instructions per clock cycle) design. Unfortunately, at the same time the K5 was in wide circulation, Cyrix chips also used a PR scheme, and essentially sabotaged the PR system by failing to deliver advertised performance.

The biggest problem with the design of the K5 was a weak FPU (floating point unit) compared to Intel's Pentium, something that would haunt them with the K6 as well.
http://www.pcmech.com/show/amd/103/

K6
AMD purchased a company called NextGen in 1996, and use their design for the K6 microprocessor. While the K6 competed strongly against the Pentium processor, Intel released the PentiumII to rain on AMD's parade. The Pentium II had excellent FPU computational power at the time, and the K6 could not keep up.

However, AMD used the K6 to create brand recognition in the low-end of the market, and the processor gave AMD the reputation of offering decent performance for low prices. Part of this strategy carries over to what AMD is doing with the Athlon today- excellent performance at low prices. However, AMD finally fixed the FPU in the K7.
http://www.pcmech.com/show/amd/103/

What is the Athlon?
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_756,00.html

The Athlon is AMD's seventh generation x86 microprocessor (K7). Initially designed and marketed to compete with Intel's Pentium III processor, it enjoys healthy and successful competition with Intel's newest Pentium 4 microprocessor.

AMD's Athlon is the most successful microprocessor in company history, changing the market's perception of the company. Originally designed on a .25-micron aluminum process at around 550 MHz, the chip has transitioned to a .18-micron copper process running at 1733 MHz.

The Athlon is also significant for marking AMD's return to model numbers, a temporary solution as the company attempts to launch a true performance initiative to combat the perception that clock speed equates to performance. For example, the Athlon XP running at a clock speed of 1733 MHz gets a model number of 2100+, and it competes strongly against Intel's 2.1 GHz to 2.2 GHz offerings.

More on the True Performance Initiative can be found:
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_756_3734^3776,00.html

Additionally, the Athlon MP product marks AMD's first entry into the dual processor server market. In 2002, AMD plans to convert the Athlon to a .13 micron process, and enter the Thin and Light segment of the mobile market.

What is the Duron?
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_1200,00.html

The Duron is AMD's discount brand of the Athlon (K7) core. It is noted for its exceptional value, and is distinguished primarily by a reduced L2 cache size (64 Kilobytes compared to the Athlon's 256 Kilobytes) and slower Front Side Bus speed, which is due to change in 2002.

What is the "Thunderbird"?
Thunderbird was the codename for AMD's enhanced version of the Athlon Classic processor. Along with the same 128KB L1 cache, the Thunderbird featured a 256KB integrated on-die L2 cache which ran at full core speed (compared to the off-die L2 cache that ran at half-speed or slower on the older .25 micron Athlons).

What is the Mustang?
Mustang was cancelled due to a lack of market demand for the part (AMD's server reputation was not sufficient at the time to justify the creation of the part). Mustang would have been an Athlon with a very large cache (up to 8 MB) for server-based systems. It would have cost a significant amount to produce, and could have garnered high Average Selling Prices (ASPs). Nevertheless, it never made it to market.

What is the Hammer or the K8?
The Hammer is AMD's 8th generation microprocessor architecture, based off the successful Athlon (K7) core. It combines the best of 32 bit architecture with an extension to x86 called x86-64. The new 64-bit architecture will allow computers to address more than 4 Gigabytes of physical memory. Additionally, AMD has added additional general-purpose registers for 64-bit mode as well as additional SSE 2 registers, both of which will improve performance significantly over 32-bit mode operation.

Opteron
AMD has decided to name the highest-end versions of its K8 products Opteron, keeping only the Athlon brand for their mainstream desktop and mobile parts. Operton is expected to ship in the first half of 2003, with K8 powered Athlons due in the 4th quarter of 2002.
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_4699,00.html

Opteron is an enterprise class product that is expected to compete against Intel's proprietary 64-bit solution, Itanium, as well as Intel's Xeon line of 32-bit microprocessors. As such, AMD is expected to receive premium pricing for the Opteron brand compared to the Athlon brand.

This is a link to Intel's IA-64 home page
http://developer.intel.com/design/itanium/index.htm

Stuff about 64-bit computing, explanation, and review:
http://www.arstechnica.com/cpu/4q99/majc/majc-1.html

Paul DeMone's articles on 64-bit computing, IA-64 and K8 (great article, must read!)
http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT062000000000
http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT071800000000

What is 3DNow!?
3dnow! was originally developed as AMD's 'solution' to weak FPU performance in the K6 line of processors. It was never widely supported in applications, but still exists today in all AMD's processors to maintain compatibility. AMD has extended the 3dnow! brand which incorporates several levels of MMX technology, the original 3dnow! instructions, and 3dnow professional instructions (which incorporate SSE).

What is PowerNow!?
PowerNow! is the name for AMD's implementation of power saving techniques for its mobile microprocessors. It can dynamically change voltages on the fly (within a given range), clock multiplier settings, and clock speeds, which result in optimal power consumption and optimal delivered performance.

Chipsets

What is a chipset and who makes them for AMD PC processors?
The chipset is a significant part of the modern PC. It is essentially a combination traffic light and translator. It handles the communication between the processor, memory, expansion cards, and virtually everything that gets plugged into your computer.

AMD has a number of third party chipset providers which include Via, SIS, ALI, and NVidia.

Can I use multi-processing on these chips like I can with Pentium chips?
AMD's Athlon MP line offers multiprocessing capabilities (up to two chips). You need a dual processor capable motherboard. More information on Athlon MP products is available:
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_1278_809,00.html

What is Hyper Transport?
"HyperTransport technology is a new high-speed, high-performance, point-to-point link for integrated circuits. HyperTransport provides a universal connection that is designed to reduce the number of buses within the system, provide a high-performance link for embedded applications, and enable highly scalable multiprocessing systems."
http://www.hypertransport.org/

Memory

What is SDRAM, DDR-SDRAM, VC-RAM, Rambus Direct DRAM?
This is a link to Dr. Pabst's memory guide (this is rather dated, but still contains useful information)
http://www.tomshardware.com/guides/ram.html

A link to Ars' excellent three-part memory guide/tutorial. http://arstechnica.com/paedia/r/ram_guide/ram_guide.part1-1.html http://arstechnica.com/paedia/r/ram_guide/ram_guide.part2-1.html
http://arstechnica.com/paedia/r/ram_guide/ram_guide.part3-1.html

A link to Ace's memory guide:
http://www.aceshardware.com/Spades/read.php?article_id=5000172

Paul De Mone will make your head spin with his technical analysis of Rambus memory ;) Although this article is dated, and the memory speed has improved, it is still fairly relevant to Rambus memory, with the basic architecture remaining the same.
http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT110799000000
http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT112299000000

What is DDR-SDRAM?
DDR-DRAM or double data rate dynamic random access memory is a "new" memory standard developed by the JEDEC (http://www.jedec.org/) consortium. JEDEC is a group of some of the world's largest and best-recognized semiconductor companies; it creates royalty-free standards for various electronics devices. There are about 300 worldwide members. DDR-SDRAM will offer 1.6 Gigabytes/sec and 2.1 Gigabytes/sec peak bandwidth, depending on the speed and quality of the memory, the actual bandwidth could be different. DDR sends information on the rising and falling edge of a clock cycle, in essence doubling the amount of data that can be sent using normal SDRAM. AMD is using the memory interface for its next generation of processors.

Micron's DDR explanation
http://www.crucial.com/ddr/ddr_explained.asp
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