announced its share of the TOP500 supercomputer list has grown 15 percent in the past six months. The company credits industry trends, upgrade paths, and competitive pricing for the increase. Of the 68 Opteron-based systems on the list, more than half of them use the Opteron 6100 series processors. We covered the launch of Magny-Cours more than a year ago; AMD's current lineup includes the dodeca-core Opteron 6180 SE at 2.5GHz at one end and two low-power parts at the other.
Magny-Cours adoption is important. Organizations typically don't upgrade HPC clusters with new CPUs, but AMD is billing Interlagos as a drop-in option for MC. As such, it'll offer up to 2x the cores (16x as compared to 8x) and equal-to-faster clockspeeds. AMD's corporate marketing VP, Leslie Solon, said the following:
The introduction of the AMD Opteron processor coincided with the HPC industry’s shift to x86 and cluster-based architecture, away from expensive proprietary or RISC-based systems,” said Leslie Sobon, corporate vice president, product marketing, AMD. “AMD provided the server technology that helped drive the democratization of supercomputing and has shown steadfast leadership in helping HPC break performance boundaries. Our new 16-core processor codenamed “Interlagos” will add features specifically for HPC and offer the world’s highest core count for x86. In addition to CPUs, we are also now seeing adoption of our GPU technologies in HPC and believe this will be a significant area for further development.
If current trends continue, AMD's share of the supercomputer market will slowly rise. The chart is interesting in its own right. Intel's share of the industry exploded virtually overnight, from a bare footnote in 2001 to a huge slice of the market in 2005. AMD's Opteron debut went extremely well, but topped out in 2006. It fell steadily for several years thereafter, thanks to increased pressure from Intel's Core architecture. Thus far, 2011 looks like a winning year, though we suspect Interlagos (currently scheduled for a Q3 debut) will make the difference.
According to the firm, Interlagos will feature multiple enhancements for HPC workloads, including a "Flex FP" technology. Presumably this refers to the fact that Bulldozer modules share an FPU. AMD is attempting to spin this as a positive and refers to Flex FP as "an innovation that allows for significant overall processor power savings when the Flex FP is not fully utilized."
That's not necessarily untrue. Bulldozer is quite different from any of AMD's previous architectures. Previous K8/K10 processors were built for high performance first and foremost. Bulldozer, in contrast, is designed to maximize instruction execution efficiency and die size. AMD's decision to build a single, powerful, shared FPU unit rather than building two completely separate cores may well reduce power consumption. The big question now is whether or not Bulldozer can deliver performance good enough to challenge Intel's dominance.