The Multicore Mindset - The History of the Home Microprocessor - Part 4
The multimedia. Driven 1990s. Had seen a paradigm. Shift. In the design. Of cpus. An emphasis. On floating point performance. Meant that by the turn of the millennium. Processes, were equipped, to handle. High resolution, displays. Complex. Creative applications. And rich, 3d. Graphics. With a clock speed wall soon approaching. The next 20 years would be defined. By packaging, multiple cpu, cores, onto a single die. While the previous 25, years. Was based around ever-growing, clock speeds. These new designs would require. A whole new way of thinking. This was the era. Of the multi-core. Mindset. The year. Is 2002. And with intel's, mainstream, and workstation, performance. Behind its rival. Amd. The company attempted, to boost performance. With a new technology. Called, hyper threading. Hyper threading, was an implementation. Of smt. Or simultaneous. Multi-threading. A technique, that created, an additional, virtual, processor. Which allowed applications, to take advantage, of underused, parts. Of the processing, pipeline. This was first seen, in new intel xeon workstation, processors. Which replaced, the pentium, 3 xeons, which occupied, space. The technology, was used to close the performance, gap, to the amd, athlon, mp. A dual socket version, of the athlon, xp. The feature was brought to the desktop. With the high-end, pentium, 4 cpus. In may. 2003. This. Combined, with a super fast, 800, megahertz, front side bus. Meant that the pentium, pulled ahead, of the athlon xp. Amd responded. By releasing, the athlon, 64. The first, 64-bit. X86. Cpu. The processor, was based on amd's, opteron, server cpu. Which had been released, earlier in the year. At first. The achievement, didn't seem that impressive. There were other 64-bit, cpus, around. Many risk architectures. Had reached the 64-bit, milestone. Far earlier. It wasn't even the first 64-bit. Desktop, cpu. The power mac g5. Powered by the power pc. Had been released three months prior. But none of this mattered. Because amd's architecture, could do, what no other architecture, could. Run both 64. And, 32-bit. X86, applications. At full speed. There was another architecture. That could run both. Intel's, itanium. Which was a risk-based. 64-bit. Cpu. That featured a 32-bit, x86, compatibility, layer. The titanium, however, suffered, huge performance, penalties. And running 32-bit, x86, code. The athlon's, architecture. Didn't. Intel tried to combat, amd's, press coverage. By announcing, a fully unlocked, version of the pentium, 4. The pentium 4 extreme edition. This quickly gained the nickname, emergency, edition. Due to its sudden announcement. But conveniently. A week before the athlon 64's, release. The initial launch of the athlon. Was somewhat mixed. The chip, was the fastest, out there. No question. But it was expensive. And the requirement, to use buffered, memory, on high-end, atlon, 64, fx products. Added further costs. There were also production, issues. At launch. Amd, could only produce, 100, 000 chips a. Month. These problems eventually ironed out. And the athon 64. Sold well. While the pentium, 4 was fast for content, creation workloads. In gaming. The athlon, 64. And 64, fx. Were far ahead. Provisions, of the pentium, 4, and athlon 64, chips, were rolled out throughout 2004. And early 2005.. But while the pentium, 4 remained competitive. The product was suffering, from high power draw and temperatures. As intel, cranked the clock speeds, higher and higher. The true step forward. Was met in, 2005.. With the release, of the dual core pentium, d. And athlon, 64. X2. The pentium, d, was essentially, two pentium 4 processors. On the same, package. Whereas the athlon, was a monolithic. Design. Again coming from amd's, work, in the server space.
The Athlons. Just like their single core counterparts. Were faster, out the box. But amd, charged a heavy price premium. And with a good overclock. The pentium, could trade blows. For far less money. It was clear by now however. That the pentium, 4, was not a smart design. In an effort to try and continuously. Improve clock speeds. Questionable, design decisions were made. That would harm the architecture. In the long. Run. The p4. Notoriously. Long, 31, stage instruction, pipeline. Made the processor. Inefficient. And when it was clear that going beyond, 4 gigahertz. Would be impossible. Intel, knew, that they had to change the architecture. But things were already looking up for the company. Apple, had transitioned, away from power pc processors. To intel's. Making amd. Intel's, only competitor. In a desktop, cpu, space. In addition. Amd, has become complacent, with their performance. Using revenue to buy graphics company ati. Rather than invest, in r d. Intel, decided to base their new architecture. On the pentium, m. A mobile, chip, originally, based, on the pentium 3 design. The pentium, m was designed to be as power efficient as possible. And while being based on the pentium, 3. It took many of the improvements, from the pentium, 4, and incorporated. Them into the core. To show that the company was moving away from the pentium, 4 approach. They created, a brand new name, for their processors. Intel. Core. The first intel core product. Was the intel, core solo, and intel, core duo. In early 2006. These chips were laptop, exclusives. And were nothing more than pentium, m processors. With minor tweaks. However. Ported to a new manufacturing. Process. They provided, class leading performance. And was successful. Their biggest weakness. Was that they were still only 32-bit, chips. But intel knew this would be fixed. In the next design. And, boy. Was it a big one. The core 2 duo family. Released, in july 2006. Was nothing short, of a game. Changer. The chips. Based on intel's new conroe, architecture. Were up to twice as fast as the pentium, ds they replaced. And crushed the performance. Of competing. Athlon, 64. Cpus. The mid-range, e6600. Was a particular, gem. It cost around 320. Dollars. It was faster, than the 900. Athlon, fx52. Which was amd's, flagship. The chips, received, glowing reviews, in the technology, press. Citing the high performance. Low power consumption. And great value. The architecture, had been given a wealth of upgrades. Which each gave, small single-digit, performance, increases. The chip itself. Was given a huge, four megabytes, of l3 cache. Confused, instructions, together. To decode more instructions per cycle. And had beefy, out of order instruction, capabilities. When combined, together. Along with a whole host of other improvements. The chip. Was a quantum, leap in performance. And crucially. Amd. Had nothing to match it. The company refreshes, lineup with slightly faster athlons. With much lower prices. But they just weren't fast enough. Furthermore. The launch of core 2 quad. A dual die version, of the core 2 duo. Pushed intel's, technology, lead. Even further ahead. In an age where dual cores were only just being utilized. Most people had no need for a quad core processor. And, the launch price of 850. Or dollars for the cheapest version. The chip, was a niche product.
But This didn't matter. Because the halo chip, was a demonstration. That intel. Was king. The core 2 quads. Rapidly, dropped in price, throughout, 2007.. Three months after release. The q 6600. The most popular, call to quad part. Had its price reduced, by three hundred dollars. By july. The price has dropped, to just 266. Dollars. Amd, finally responded, to intel's lineup, in late 2007. With the launch of phenom. But the chips were overpriced. And hit with an architectural. Bug. Which dropped performance. Further. The main problem with phenom. Was it simply, couldn't clock fast enough. The chips, struggled, to get past 2.5. Gigahertz. The product was relaunched. Six months later. With the architectural. Bug fixed. Increased, clock speeds. And the lower price. The freedom. Was now competitive. But only just. Towards the end of 2008. And early 2009. Successors. From both companies. Were released. The core i7. From intel, was launched in late 2008. And offered noticeable, performance, gains, over the quality, quad. But the product, was hampered, by the requirement. For expensive, ddr3, memory. And a reduction, in l2, cache size. Meant that some software, saw no performance, gain. Amd, released its new architecture. The phenom, 2. In january 2009. To warm reception. The chip, wasn't as fast as the core i7. But it was competitive, with the call to quads. And could be dropped into the now three-year-old. Am2 motherboards. For a cost-effective. Upgrade. Six core cpus. Came in early 2010. With the core i7. 980, x, being released by intel. And the phenom, 2x6. Being released by amd. The i7, was a chip, that could do it all. It had impressive, multi-threaded, performance, when applications, could use all six cores. And blistering. Single core speed. When they couldn't. The phenom, wasn't so impressive. But thanks to its low price. It was at least competitive. Going into 2011. Both amd, and intel. Had brand new micro architectures. On the horizon. With intel, detailing, its new sani bridge micro architecture. In late 2010. From the surface. Sandy bridge was an evolution, within the halem architecture, of the previous core i7. Under the hood. There were a variety, of improvements. Which gave it a boost of around 30 percent. Over the original core i7. This was impressive on its own. But the biggest advantage, with sally bridge. Was the affordability. The core i7, 2600k.
Could Match the previous, flagship. The six core, i7, 980x. That was 700. Cheaper. At only, 317. The real star, was the core i5, 2500k. Delivering, 90, of the performance. Of the 2600k. At roughly half the price. The chips. Were given glowing reviews, in the tech press. A nantech, called them, a no-brainer. An amd, would have to deliver something special. To keep up. Early in development. Amd had reported that its upcoming, bulldozer, architecture. Was up to 50, faster, than the original core i7. And many hoped for a return. To top tier performance. Bulldozer, was a radical departure. From previous designs. In prior architectures. Each core got its own caches. Units. And interconnects. And were largely independent, with one another. In bulldozer. Amd, group two cores together. Into a module. Which shared some resources. Such as the level two cache. And floating point unit. This compromise, was done, to try and boost clock speed to the part. Something which had always troubled amd, with the original, phenom. If clock speeds were high enough, then the chip would easily outperform. Its. Predecessor. That was just one problem. They weren't. The flagship. Fx 8150. Was barely faster. Than the phenom 2x6. Despite, having 8 cores, compared to the phenom, 6.. In single threaded workloads. The fx, chips were slower, than phenom. And compared to sandy bridge. They were, hopeless. Because of the lackluster, performance. Amd could only price their chips up to a certain point. Which meant, the revenue, started to decrease. At first. There wasn't a problem. With strong gpu, sales, and sales of phenom. Enabling, the company to bring home a net income, of 491. Million dollars. In 2011.. But a year later. The company, made a net loss. Of 1.18. Billion dollars. Amd. Were forced, to sell its foundries. Layoff staff. Drastically, cut down on r d. And even, sell its headquarters. The company, tried to fix the broken architecture. First by cranking, up the clock speed. And then gradually, modifying. The core design. But this did little to help.
Because Intel's architecture. Was so far ahead. Faced with no competition. Intel spent almost all of its focus, on the mobile market. Beefing up the integrated, graphics. And improving, power consumption. This was mainly achieved, using the company's, unmatched, lead, in silicon manufacturing. Even if amd, could make a chip as powerful. It would be slower. Due to intel's, foundry advantage. Intel were dominant, for the next five years. And faced with no competition. Rolled out endless quad cores, with slightly higher performance. Sandy bridge, was followed by ivy bridge. Essentially, a dive shrink, to the 22 nanometer, platform. This was followed by haswell. Broadwell. And then skylake. Each being minor improvements. Many people started to feel like these new chips were lazy, upgrades. But with amd, so far behind. People had no choice. But to buy them. Faced with bankruptcy. Amd, took drastic, action. First. Most resources, were put behind developing, a brand new cpu, architecture. Called zen. This left amd's, graphics lineup vulnerable. But amd, had never really broke through with graphics. And so this was deemed a necessary, sacrifice. They beefed up efforts with microsoft, and sony. To produce the hardware. For the xbox, one. And playstation. 4 consoles. Helping to diversify. Revenue streams. The company also gained a new ceo. In late. 2014. Lisa sue. Could join the company in 2012. From hp, enterprise. With restructuring. A place. And the company now stable. Amd, went into 2017. With great hope. Their new cpu, architecture. Was ready. The zen core was far more traditional, than the bordeaux, concept. Reverting, back to an independent, core design. Over bulldozers, modules. It brought new features, such as some micro op cache. Simultaneous. Multi threading. And a dramatically, improved floating point. Engine. The architecture, was also built on the new 14, nanometer, fin effect process. Which yielded, further efficiency, gains. The biggest advantage, zen had however. Was its high core count. Featuring, up to eight cores, on a single, zen die. Launched in early 2017. Verizon.
Which Was the brand name of the zen product family. Was met with praise, from the tech press. The top-end chips were equal in performance. To the intel core i7. 6900k. But the horizons, were a third the. Price. While single threaded performance, and clocks, were still behind, intel's latest architecture. Kaby lake. He got twice the cause. For the same price. Consumers. Who have been stuck with a maximum, of four cores, for the last 11 years. Are suddenly, shown just how dangerous, a monopoly, could be. Intel quickly responded. Releasing, a six core mainstream, processor. The i7, 8700k. Six months later. The ryzen family was refreshed, in april 2018. With minor tweaks and higher clock speeds. Being released as the ryzen, 2000, series. And in october. Intel, further increased, core count, with the core i9, at 9900k. Which brought eight calls to intel's, mainstream. Platform. Intel, had hoped to transition, products across to their new 10 nanometer, node, in 2015. But it had been plagued with problems. And even five years later. It still wasn't ready for the desktop. The company mitigated, this, by making continuous. Improvements, to its 14 nanometer, process. But amd. Who used tsmc. And samsung, foundries. Could leap ahead, and gain a node advantage. While tsmc's. 7 nanometer. Was only slightly better than intel 10 nanometer, process. It had great yields. And could be used for a desktop, size die. In july 2019. Amd, fully utilized, the new node, with their ryzen, 3000. Family. Based, on the zen 2 architecture. The core design was the same as the original ryzen. With an improved, memory controller. And doubled the l3, cache. Significantly, improving gaming performance. The zen 2 architecture, also innovated, by using a chiplet, design. Which separated, the i o, and compute, portions of the chip. Into two distinct, dies. This was done because the compute portion, gained large benefit, when moving to the new expensive, process. Whereas moving the i o die. Saw little benefit. Thus, by separating, the dies. The io could be manufactured. Using older and cheaper lithographies. Without, impacting, performance. This chiplet, design. Allowed amd, to double the core count. Bringing, 16. Calls, to the mainstream, desktop. Stuck on its 14 nanometer, process. Intel could only increase core count, by 25. Losing its 10 core, i9. 10 900k. In may 2020. So what's next. Since 2005. We've hit a wall with clock speeds. Being limited by power jaw. And heat dissipation. Furthermore. As the process, nodes shrink. The cost to develop new chips. Is growing, at an exponential. Rate. In 2001. When the pentium, 4 was first introduced. There were 23, foundries. Who are manufacturing. The bleeding, edge, 130. Nanometer. Process. With the latest seven nanometer, node. Only three are left. Intel. Samsung. And tsmz. With these limitations. The future of x86. Looks underwhelming. More cores. Bigger caches. Minor architectural.
Improvements. For 50. Increases, in performance. You can forget it. To keep pushing boundaries. It will require, truly, groundbreaking. Innovation. But that's exactly how he got here. In the first. Place.