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Istanbul: AMD's new Six-Core Processor

Original Article Date: 2009-07-13


Six cores on one slab of silicon - the Istanbul Processor

As if four cores weren't enough, AMD have increased the number of processing cores on a single CPU die by another 50%. The development comes with the launch of the new Opteron 2400 and 8400 series processors, codenamed "Istanbul".

The first question you might ask is, do we need that many? For a desktop user, it's doubtful, but for servers and workstations, having 50% more processing cores within the same system footprint is a significant jump forward.

Consider the following reasons for moving to six-core:

  • These days, many workstation applications, such as video rendering and custom scientific applications, are heavily multi-threaded, and will make use of any available processing cores to get the job done faster.
  • In the server market, with virtualization transforming the way system administrators use their hardware, having four extra cores in a 2P box means you could add so many more virtual machines to that system.
  • In high-performance computing clusters, you've just increased your cluster compute density by 50%.
  • And in 4P and 8P (4-way/8-way physical processor) powerhouse boxes, a speciality of AMD, you now have the possibility of 24 or 48 processing cores in a single physical machine!

So with that taste of the potential for six-core computing, let's have a look inside the new Istanbul CPU.

More than just Six Cores


Logical view of the new Istanbul processor

Whilst the headline of the new AMD CPU is about the increase in number of cores, the launch of Istanbul coincides with a number of new technology releases.

HyperTransport 3 technology (HT3) is now incorporated for links between CPUs and to the PCI-Express buses. HT3 more than doubles this bandwidth to 4.8GT/s from the 2GT/s supported by HT1 (the standard used on all previous AMD Opteron CPUs hitherto).

HT Assist reduces cache probe traffic between processors, which can result in faster queries in 4 and 8-way servers. This can increase performance for cache sensitive applications such as database, virtualization, and compute intensive applications.

Furthermore, AMD have increased the the number of cores by 50% and yet maintained the same power and thermal ranges as the previous four-core versions - 75W for mainstream, 105W for performance, and 55W for low-power versions. This is an impressive feat, and effectively means a workstation user or sysadmin can get 50% more computing with no extra cooling or power usage overhead. This is an amazing achievement.

Much of the other features remain unchanged from the excellent "Shanghai" quad-core CPU that launched six months ago, specifically, 45nm process technology, AMD PowerNow power management, 800MHz DDR2 support, 512KB L2 cache per CPU (now 3MB total across six cores) plus a 6MB L3 cache.

The New Model Lineup

The range of new CPU models at launch are broken down into two main groups - 2400 series for 2-way computing and 8400 series for 4 or 8 way computing.

Within these two groups are the mainstream 75W models, plus low-power "HE" models rated at 55W and a high clock frequency "SE" model rated at 105W.

Model Clock Max CPUs Max TDP System Integrated Price (each)*
2423HE 2.0GHz 2 55W $551
2425HE 2.1GHz 2 55W $633
2427 2.2GHz 2 75W $551
2431 2.4GHz 2 75W $846
2435 2.6GHz 2 75W $1,198
2439SE 2.8GHz 2 105W $1,235
8425HE 2.1GHz 8 55W $1,836
8431 2.4GHz 8 75W $2,606
8435 2.6GHz 8 75W $3,212
8439SE 2.8GHz 8 105W $3,212

* Price at time of article publishing date

These CPUs are available NOW for immediate integration within our Tyan mainboard based workstations and servers. Our most popular models are the CADIZ 2-way workstation (max 12 cores), the SOLOMON 4/8-way (max 48 cores) workstation and the FUJI 4/8-way (max 48 cores, 1U to 5U height) enterprise server.

Summary

The launch of Istanbul is an effective response by AMD to Intel's "Nehalem" launch of three months ago, providing workstation users and server administrators with 50% more computing cores than Intel within the same 2P footprint.

For high-performance computing users running 4-way or 8-way boxes, in particular, Istanbul runs away from the competition, providing the opportunity to run nearly 50 processors within a single machine, without the need for complex clustering software and high-speed fibre interconnects.

Whether you're an AMD fan or loyal to Intel, whichever way you look at it, Istanbul is certainly keeping AMD in the highly competitive game of server and workstation processors. And that competition benefits us all.

Best regards,


Ben Ranson
Chief Systems Engineer
Electronics Nexus
http://elnexus.com
ben@elnexus.com
1-877-773-5366