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Old Jan 31, 2011, 06:23 PM   #1
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AMD Bulldozer Turbo CORE: This one goes to 11

John Fruehe, Director of Product Marketing for Server, Embedded and FireStream products at AMD, has published a new blog with details of how AMD's new Bulldozer architecture will leverage power monitoring technology to give significant boosts to core clock speeds:

Bulldozer goes to 11.

We are including a new feature in “Bulldozer” that will help you take your performance up to 11. This feature, which is new to our server processors, is called AMD Turbo CORE technology and it allows you to capture that extra power headroom between average and maximum power, turning it into more clock speed. So, how does it work? Perhaps a little background about how clock speed is derived will help first.

Contrary to popular belief, clock speed is not determined based on the best case scenario; that is to say that when we stamp a number like 2.2 GHz onto an AMD Opteron™ 6174 processor, that isn’t the best that it can perform. To some degree it is more like the worst case scenario.

Processors all run workloads, and to determine the clock speed, you determine what is the maximum speed that you can run the processor at before you hit the maximum amount of power allowed, the thermal design power or TDP. TDP is the maximum allowed power consumption, but, like the maximum speed capability of your car, you will rarely ever hit TDP because most workloads don’t stress the processors the way the testing does.

When we test processors to assign their clock speed, we actually test them under a methodology that includes using programs designed to stress every transistor at the same time, maximizing the power consumption to try to reach TDP. The challenge is that the workloads that most customers use don’t come anywhere close to consuming the power that the test does, so the actual marked clock speed is conservative. Obviously when I type this blog the CPU power is nowhere near the power of running computational fluid dynamics programs, so there is a variance between workloads; the same silicon would have a lower clock speed for server than client workloads because the client workload is less intensive.

AMD Turbo CORE allows customers to tap into that additional clock speed headroom by allowing the processor to rise up from the base clock speed up to the TDP level, automatically unlocking extra potential for the processor. Should the processor get too close to the power limit, it does automatically step back a bit to ensure that it is continuing to operate within the specified guidelines. This allows for significantly higher maximum clock speeds.

Source - AMD Blog

AMD's PowerTune technology offers half of what AMD's new Turbo CORE technology will bring, monitoring the SIMD's and managing clock speed. Additionally, Turbo CORE will increase clock speed - over 500MHz for some cores and workloads.

All of this is based making Thermal Design Power and Actual Consumed Power come closer together. Where a system is designed to hit a specific TDP but never achieves that under actual use, the customer has overbudgeted for cooling and power. Across several computers in a lab, server room or steam cafe, that could be the difference between an additional two or three machines - or better add-in board graphics card.

What's interesting is that rather than capping TDP and pushing it down, AMD are moving ACP up into the TDP envelope they are already working in. As customers are already comfortable in that TDP position, they are in effect getting more performance for the same power - better perf/w.

However this won't necessarily stop AMD from pushing TDP down to meet ACP; in areas where performance is already adequate or indeed exceptional, less power can be used to provide that level - again increasing perf/w. In the long term, higher perf/w leads to better value, as the initial purchase cost is defrayed over time then the more significant running costs become.

For the end consumer, being able to run a cheaper, smaller case with cheaper, smaller fans and heatsinks inside could be all the benefit they want. Or, the money saved could be invested into a higher performing other component - graphics card, solid state disk, or more RAM; or more games and apps.

Last edited by caveman-jim : Feb 1, 2011 at 08:22 AM.
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