AMD fundamentally shifts chip design methodology

AMD hopes to blur the lines between CPUs and GPUs in future chips, and integrate third-party intellectual property

Advanced Micro Devices will take a fundamentally different approach to designing chips as it tries to move away from playing second fiddle to Intel.

The company will blur the lines between CPUs and graphics processors in future chip design cycles, with both units sharing a memory pool and running common software applications, said AMD CTO Mark Papermaster Thursday during a financial analyst conference speech that was webcast.

AMD is also opening up its chips for integration of third-party intellectual property, which is the best way for the company to offer customized chips for specific customer needs, Papermaster said.

"It's more quick, more agile and tailored to the problem they want to solve," Papermaster said. An example is the data center, where intellectual property in the chip can be mixed and matched with IP to help tailor chips for cloud, Web serving or high-performance tasks, Papermaster said.

The new chip architectural approach comes as AMD rebuilds its product portfolio and restructures its business model. The company appointed new CEO Rory Read just five months ago and Papermaster took on the role of CTO in October. Executives speaking at the analyst day event being held in Sunnyvale, California, continuously hit on the need to adopt a more "agile" business model that could respond quicker to customer needs.

AMD's current chips integrate CPUs and graphics processors based on the company's intellectual property. The CPUs and GPUs perform different functions and run different software code -- for example, antivirus software is processed on CPUs and not on GPUs. The more resource-intensive graphics applications like Adobe Flash are offloaded to GPUs, freeing up CPUs to process other tasks.

AMD's new chip design, called HSA (heterogeneous systems architecture), will reach maturity by 2014 with 64-bit addressing, virtual memory, better internal bandwidth and software taking advantage of both processing units, Papermaster said. A chip code-named Kabini for low-power laptops due in 2013 will see HSA at work, according to an AMD slide deck.

AMD is also leading the formation of an organization to bring software development tools so coders can write applications for HSA. The company hopes to open source the tools, and more details about its progress will be shared later this year.

"The way to really bring momentum ... is to bring the industry with us," Papermaster said.

Depending on whether partners buy into HSA, the new approach would allow AMD to tackle the chip market in a fundamentally different way from Intel, which controls the IP and sells the parts, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, who was at the event.

"The sense I get here is that they're not going to be satisfied with being a follower," King said.

Opening up the chip to external IP has worked well in some cases, but questions remain on how effective a growth driver it will be for AMD's chips, King said.

Though details are lacking, this is a strategic announcement intended to set the company's direction for the future, King said.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?