A Journey in Modern Computer Architectures

A personal record of understanding, deciphering, speculating and predicting the development of modern microarchitecture designs.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

AMD's ARM Strategy?

I'm quite baffled by the recent news that AMD is going to design server chips with licensed ARM(v8) cores compatible with their "freedom fabric" interconnect.

What I don't understand is which type of product are they after with such a combination? The freedom fabric is a storage fabric, more like a (scalable) south-bridge equivalent. It seems AMD will integrate the storage fabric into the (supposedly many-core) ARM-based chips? Since AMD is not licensing the freedom fabric to anyone else, the only "customer" of such a chip will be SeaMicro? Since they will use licensed ARM cores, their chips likely won't compete with others (Qualcomm, Samsung, nVidia, Broadcom, ...) who develop customized cores on power efficiency and performance. Does AMD seriously believe their processors can be more competitive based on storage technology?

It is hard for me to believe that with all the possibilities in ARM based products, AMD could only think of licensing ARM cores to sell their freedom fabric? I thought ARM isn't even a CPU design company with the same caliber as AMD! As someone who believe AMD took the right design approach with their Bulldozer/Trinity (and similarly Bobcat) designs, I even doubt the licensed ARM core could compete with their own next-generation low-power x86-64 cores.

Anyway this is IMHO yet another weird plan from AMD over the past few years. Although Rory Read assured everyone during the analyst day that AMD's problem wasn't the wrong plans , I had the feeling that it's precisely the wrong plans, or at least lack of a right/focused plan. They planned to make Llano based APU, Bobcat based APU, Bulldozer and Trinity, all in a narrow 2-year window, during which they will also revamp graphics core and spend $370M to buy storage technologies. If they were trying to do everything of course one of the things they tried might fare better than others, right? Now they are trying to make ARM based processors, but just for scalable storage. I really don't understand--what would that accomplish which their x86-64 expertise will not? If ARM really is lower-power than x86 at the same performance (which I seriously doubt), then hasn't AMD been wasting time & money in designing Bobcat, but instead should've licensed ARMv7 cores 2 years ago?

Their problem was not having the wrong plan? Ba!!!
Please Note: Anonymous comments will be read and respected only when they are on-topic and polite. Thanks.