New x86 clones & Linus Torvalds (Linux fame)
ravage at ssz.com
Sun Feb 8 11:03:32 PST 1998
> X-within-URL: http://techweb.cmp.com/eet/column1/wintel19.html
> HOT X86 CHIPS FOR '98 AND BEYOND
> [INLINE] Launching yet another x86 microprocessor into a field already
> crowded with clones isn't a good way to bet your company's future. But
> that's just what two startups and one CPU stalwart are doing, in a bid
> to beat Intel at its own game.
> The new ventures--Centaur Technology Inc. (Austin, Texas) and
> Transmeta Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.)--and long-time player Advanced
> Micro Devices Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) each has its own twist on what
> it will take to survive in the cutthroat x86 world in 1998 and beyond.
> Let's take them one at a time.
> Centaur, founded by renowned microprocessor architect Glenn Henry, is
> focusing on the low end of the market, where sub-$1,000 desktop
> machines and sub-$2,000 notebooks rule. Centaur's offering, launched
> only a few months ago, is called the IDT WinChip C6 ("IDT" stands for
> Integrated Device Technology Inc., which owns Centaur). It's a
> Pentium-class processor that supports the MMX multimedia
> instruction-set extensions, a Socket-7 interface, and comes in speed
> grades of 180-MHz and 200-MHz. Centaur is positioning the C6 as a
> direct alternative to Intel's Pentium with MMX, AMD's K6, and Cyrix's
> 6x86MX microprocessors.
> From a design standpoint, what's interesting about the C6 is that
> Henry chose not to follow the reigning trends in chip architecture.
> Instead, he took a downsized approach, implementing just those
> features he needed to deliver decent performance in a high-volume,
> low-cost CPU.
> "The biggest thing we did is throw out conventional thinking," Henry
> told me when we met recently. "We came to the conclusion that the
> added benefit of a lot of computer-science things wasn't worth the
> effort. We're not superscalar--we don't do out-of-order execution.
> Everyone else is designing 4-way superscalar processors, so we did a
> 6-way chip."
> In designing the C6, Henry said his team found that, as CPU clock
> speeds approach 200-MHz, nearly half the time is spent waiting on the
> bus. So, Henry outfitted the C6 with a huge translation-look-aside
> buffer, as well as a second-level TLB, to reduce bus utilization and
> cut that wait-time to the bone.
> Also notable is the fact that Centaur is a tiny outfit that began life
> a scant two years ago. "Intel would like the world to believe it takes
> tens of years and dozens of people to design a microprocessor," Henry
> said. Looking at the results rolling out of Centaur, it's obvious what
> a dedicated group of engineers can accomplish.
> Over at AMD, a somewhat larger engineering team is already burning the
> midnight oil to design the K7 (code-named "Argon"), which will compete
> with Intel's upcoming 64-bit Merced CPU.
> AMD has a project team hard at work on K7, but has leaked few details.
> Publicly, AMD wants to talk more about its new MMX-enhanced K6
> processors. But K7 will be the key to AMD's long-term future, since a
> 64-bit chip is a must-have for any company that wants to remain a
> viable alternative to Intel.
> The few details we do know emerged in October in a keynote speech at
> the Microprocessor Forum by AMD chairman Jerry Sanders. He said that
> the K7 will run at clock speeds in excess of 500-MHz and will come in
> a module that's mechanically--though not electrically--interchangeable
> with Intel's Slot 1 connector. Most interesting was the news that K7
> will use the bus protocol developed by Digital Equipment Corp. for its
> Alpha EV-6 processor.
> It's not clear how far along AMD is with the K7. Indeed, it will be a
> daunting task. But AMD has two things going for it in its quest.
> First, it is very strong in the simulation and verification
> department--an important factor in avoiding design flaws like the
> floating-point bug that struck Intel and its Pentium.
> More important, AMD knows what it's like to wrestle with design
> delays, which struck its K5 project. Concerns on the K6 job were
> reportedly behind AMD's decision to purchase NexGen in January, 1996.
> Indeed, the NexGen team provided the Nx586 core, which became the
> basis for the K6.
> The third, and potentially most interesting, effort involves
> Transmeta, a startup formed less than three years ago by former Sun
> Microsystems chip architect David Ditzel. Initial word had Transmeta
> at work on a PowerPC clone. Then, the buzz was that the company was
> designing a Java chip aimed at the nascent market for low-cost network
> computers. Now, it seems that Transmeta's effort is focused more on an
> x86 alternative that boasts either low-power, multimedia or
> network-computer capabilities. Or perhaps all three.
> One interesting tidbit to emerge from Transmeta is the news that it
> has hired Linus Torvalds, the designer of the Linux operating system.
> Apart from Torvalds' considerable software skills, he's plugged into
> an influential community of Unix programmers, which could give
> Transmeta a big leg up in any effort to design a processor tuned to
> handle real-world networked applications.
> Alexander Wolfe is EE Times' Managing Editor for computers and
| The most powerful passion in life is not love or hate, |
| but the desire to edit somebody elses words. |
| Sign in Ed Barsis' office |
| _____ The Armadillo Group |
| ,::////;::-. Austin, Tx. USA |
| /:'///// ``::>/|/ http://www.ssz.com/ |
| .', |||| `/( e\ |
| -====~~mm-'`-```-mm --'- Jim Choate |
| ravage at ssz.com |
| 512-451-7087 |
More information about the cypherpunks-legacy