Building Bridges with AMD

Joseff Betancourt
I've always been a big fan of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Its legacy chips had a great low-cost, high-processing value that this poor kid from the Bronx could really appreciated. Then it started changing its pricing structure and technology. The company lost focus introducing multicore chips with high latency and slow bridge speeds. Honestly, AMD fell out of favor with me pretty quickly at that point and I went back to Intel chips.

So that's why I'm pretty interested in the new AMD Opteron line of 12- and 16-core chipsets, which I learned about from Mike Vizard's post here. They're supposed to sport much faster bridge speeds in conjunction with high megahertz processing, a new subset of co-processor units that the company named "accelerated processing unit" (APU) and is really just an upgrade to the GPU-it calls this new technology its "Fusion Line." Here is a white paper on the new technology (no registration required). Although it's overall impressive technology,  Intel has also introduced APU technology in its newest chips, so the race to adoption begins again. If you're like me and are a bit skeptical about this new technology and need a more in-depth explanation of what an APU is and why you need it, here is a good explanation at

In addition to the APU, AMD realized that in order to fix speed issues sometimes you need to break some things-this thinking has resulted in an entirely new internal processor architecture, aptly named 'Bulldozer'.  What this really means for the end user is that more custom applications are not going to work as planned on that brand-spanking-new box you just bought. The new architecture boasts not one, but two sets of fast memory caches, one L2 cache on the core and one L3 cache on the chip. Confused about the L2/L3 cache? Then read this. And if you're like me and need some neatly done, marketing-based graphics showing how Bulldozer is the end-all solution, even more architecture charts can be found here.

So AMD is ramping up for a big showdown again and has some really impressive technologies lined up, but I won't really be sold on them until I see a box running a copy of Metro 2033 flawlessly in fluid motion. Nothing tests a server like a next-generation action game!

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