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May 12, 2014

K7/K8 Inventor Back at AMD, Prepares Core i7-Strong Excavator APUs for 2015




If the first two generations of Bulldozer microprocessors hadn't had more bad than good traits, Advanced Micro Devices may not have pulled out of the direct competition against Intel on the high-end front. Come 2015, the contest may resume.

Bulldozer is defined by the use of compute modules, each of which has a pair of cores and provides integer power like a dual-core, but also multiple multi-threading (SMT) capability like single-core chips. Sadly, the way they share resources between two cores isn't very efficient, and single-threaded performance is low compared to that of Intel chips anyway. It's all this that made FX-series 8-core CPUs achieve lower performance than Intel quad-core Core i7 with the same number of FPUs (floating point units). Now, though, Jim Keller, the one who spearheaded the invention of the K7 and K8 architectures that were better than anything else in their time (though we're sure some disagree with that) is back at Advanced Micro Devices.

He will work on the K12 ARMv8-based products, but will take a look at Bulldozer as well and, maybe, finally allow it to get over the main problems. Come 2015, a new Bulldozer architecture called Excavator will be unveiled, Expreview reports. AMD will unveil a new general-purpose x86 core that should benefit from at least some of the great ideas that Jim Keller tends to get when he involves himself in a project. For one thing, AVX 3.2 512-bit extensions, among other things, will be supported. Also, we may see up to 16 cores in a single processor. In fact, 16-core units could surface as early as this year (2014), once the Steamroller generation of Bulldozer comes forth. Sadly, software still isn't coded for so many different threads, so most of the potential computing power will go to waste, at least at first.

Odds are higher that AMD will try to play it safe and promote the new Bulldozer cores as part of APUs. Steamroller gets Carrizo and Toronto (will come out this year), so Excavator will power the successors of those units. Now we just have to wait and see if Jim Keller achieves the miracle that so many hope for and enables Bulldozer to match Intel Core i7 CPUs performance-wise. Some expect that the CMT (cluster-based multithreading) in Bulldozer will be dropped in favor of something closer to the simultaneous multithreading (SMT), which could make this dream come true. And with the graphics part already superior to Intel, we might have a winner.

Jim Keller speaks at an AMD event
Image credits to X-bit labs

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