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For AMD Success Means Problems 193

Posted by Zonk
from the too-much-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AMD's success with its dual-core Opteron and Athlon processors has created something of a happy problem for the company. It can't make its products fast enough to meet demand. Just the same, with the Intel price war heating up and new 65-nanometer manufacturing technology being implemented in its factories, AMD has a lot of balls in the air right now." From the News.com article: "AMD's current pickle is the result of its success, which makes it a little easier to swallow for company executives. Demand is high, but the company's dual-core processors still use its 90-nanometer manufacturing technology. Intel's chips, on the other hand, are built using the smaller transistors provided by its 65-nanometer manufacturing technology. Not only is AMD using larger transistors, but its dual-core Opteron and Athlon 64 processors contain two processing cores integrated onto a single piece of silicon, or a die. This design has given AMD great performance during the past few years, but resulted in processors that were almost twice the size of its single-core chips."
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For AMD Success Means Problems

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  • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:20PM (#16598634)
    I hate it when my balls are in the air.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nschubach (922175)
      Both quotes are laced with falic symbology:
      "AMD has a lot of balls in the air right now."

      "AMD's current pickle[...]"

      "[...]makes it a little easier to swallow[...]"
    • Obligatory Beavis and Butthead quote:

      "hehe... he said balls"
    • by Schemat1c (464768)
      ...AMD has a lot of balls in the air right now.

      That reminds me...

      It's like...

      My....

      Nah, too easy.
  • Apple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gotung (571984) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:25PM (#16598740)
    To all those AMD fanboi's that cried "Why not AMD"? when Apple choose Intel, this is why.
     
    Disclaimer: I have nothing against AMD, I like there fact there is healthy competition in the chip world. Makes for better/faster/cheaper products for us consumers.
    • Re:Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by binary paladin (684759) <binarypaladin@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:29PM (#16598802)
      Bah, I was hoping with only like three posts up I could be the first to mention that. My PCs use AMD processors almost exclusively and I have been using AMD since my bloody 286. My main work machine, however, is now a Mac (a PPC one currently).

      Since Apple first announced Intel I thought that it was pretty obvious why they went that route rather than AMD. This, right here, was one of the main reasons. Supply programs have haunted Apple for quite some time. Why switch to a new architecture just to get more of the same?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toddestan (632714)
        Supply programs have haunted Apple for quite some time. Why switch to a new architecture just to get more of the same?

        Except that it wouldn't be the same. Apple was dependent on Motorola and later IBM because they were the only suppliers of the PPC chips they needed for the Mac. However, since AMD and Intel both make x86 chips that function the same, they wouldn't be dependent on AMD if they went that route because they could switch over to Intel chips at any time without much trouble (and vice-versa I su
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nimey (114278)
          Except they'd also have to use different motherboards, since the sockets and chipsets aren't compatible, and sometimes the memory isn't either, as before AMD switched to socket AM2. Better for them to have a single supplier, and Intel's the one with fab capacity (and a better chip, finally).
          • by toddestan (632714)
            I suppose that would be an issue for a company that loves propriety motherboard designs. Though companies like HP manage to juggle both an AMD and Intel line up for their notebook computers, so I'm sure Apple could handle it. Besides, they wouldn't have to deal with the really tough stuff, as all their code for their Intel Macs would run on an AMD Mac just fine (well, except for that stuff that deals with the TPM, which is certainly another reason Apple went with Intel - the included DRM). Basically, swi
            • by mgblst (80109)
              One of the reasons for apple success, is that they don't give you a 1000 choices of laptops, or ipods. You get 3 or 4 choices, which actually makes things easier for the customer. If Apple were to do this, it would needlessly complicate the choices for a lot of people. I can see why they only wanted to choose one company.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Aadain2001 (684036)
      Yup, this was one of those "bullet point" items why Apple went with Intel over AMD. Only Intel (and IBM) have the kind of manufacturing capacity that Apple needs in order to keep the supply chain moving while still providing to other customers. It would/will take many many years of constant fab building for AMD to compete with Intel on production scale.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        It would/will take many many years of constant fab building for AMD to compete with Intel on production scale.

        You realize that when AMD moves from 90 to 65, they're going to get ~25% increase in yield? (possibly less, since more chips = more potential defects)

        AMD has been using the previous generation of fabbing & is still strongly competing with Intel.

        I just hope AMD has a better transition plan for the 65nm to 40nm switch, which will most likely be the industry's final step down in size.

        • Intel has demonstrated working transistors all the way down to 1nm. The big question though, is can those transistors be manufactured in high quantities reliably? 40nm will not be the final step down, but we are getting closer.

          For clarification, what do you mean by AMD competing with Intel? Are you referring to units sold to consumers, units sold to OEMs, manufacturing capacity, or design innovations? In some of those areas, Intel and AMD are neck-and-neck and trade places (who is in the lead) every fe

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by modecx (130548)
            For clarification, what do you mean by AMD competing with Intel? Are you referring to units sold to consumers, units sold to OEMs, manufacturing capacity, or design innovations?

            It's pretty obvious that in the context of "competing with Intel", he meant in the "outright processor performance" category, as in that AMD has continually used/s lower tech to compete with, if not frequently surpass the performance intel processors demonstrated--and usually at a lower price, as in the only thing normal people pay a
            • NetBurst based processors sucked. The new Core 2 processors kick AMD's ass up and down the block AND consume less power. AMD isn't competing much on price, performance, or availability.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)
      Sure, especially when you consider that one of the problems Apple had with IBM/Motorola is that they were always in short supply of chips. Apple was constantly delayed in releasing new models because their processor suppliers weren't meeting their estimates.
    • by jmorris42 (1458) *
      > To all those AMD fanboi's that cried "Why not AMD"? when Apple choose Intel, this is why.

      Wrong. Had Apple signed AMD to supply them they would have certainly been in a position to have demanded first dibs on production. Seeing as there is zero likelyhood of Apple consuming the entirety of AMD's fab capacity......

      Apple would have went with Intel regardless of quality of the good, delivery problems or anything else. Apple isn't about hardware or software or even technology, they sell a brand experienc
    • To all those AMD fanboi's that cried "Why not AMD"? when Apple choose Intel, this is why.


      Also, the fact that the Core 2 crushes AMD's chips while consuming less power, which was probably the most important factor. The Powerbooks were dying for a processor upgrade.
    • Think of apple with IBM/Motorola for PowerPC.

      IBM/Moto would make a new chip, Apple would announce it and IBM/Motorola wouldn't be able to make enough. Once they begin catching up, the product would be near end-of-lifed already.

      With Intel, Apple's sales are a drop in the bucket. No more first-day shortages for Apple.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:27PM (#16598784)
    From the News.com article: "AMD's current pickle ..."
    Well, *No wonder* AMD is having problems... they should NOT be making pickles, they should be making chips!

    TDz.
  • No Matter What... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hurting now (967633) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:29PM (#16598812) Homepage Journal
    the consumer wins. I was an AMD fan boy for the past few years, but like a true Chicago fan, I am rooting for the other team because they are up. AMD may strike back again, maybe not, but this price war has really benefited many of us.
    • Re:No Matter What... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kimvette (919543) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @04:07PM (#16599506) Homepage Journal
      No kidding. Thanks to the price war I scored a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo really cheap, and have it happily overclocked at 3.06Ghz. I wanted to go AMD, but I didn't because:

      1. They are no longer cost-effective in comparison to Core 2

      2. Compatibility issues; athough the chipset I chose is not 100% supported on the kernel rev I'm running, it's still a far sight better than getting an ATI or NForce chipset to run acceptably well. Also, The AMD-ATI merger does not bode well for Linux users, given ATI's abysmal track record. I refuse to buy ATI products and am now avoiding AMD until I see whether or not ATI cleans up its act. (insert a rabid "fuck ATI" right about here)

      3. at stock clock speeds, it is 80% faster (according to benchmarks) than the Pentium D I sometimes use at the office, and well over 100% faster than the Pentium 4 (the other box) my primary box at the office. At 3.06Ghz, it's (obviously) much faster than even that. :)

      I wanted to go AMD, I really did, but with Intel's quad core processor coming out Real Soon Now and with my board's already being certified to run it, it was the logical choice. Quad core upgradability was the clincher.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        Also, The AMD-ATI merger does not bode well for Linux users, given ATI's abysmal track record. I refuse to buy ATI products and am now avoiding AMD until I see whether or not ATI cleans up its act. (insert a rabid "fuck ATI" right about here)

        Naively, since AMD, the larger company, bought ATI I would figure AMD's culture of openness would dominate. At least, I hope this is the case, because I'm sick of having only one choice for graphics cards (though I'm used to it; ever since 3dfx).

        Anyway, it doesn't seem
      • The AMD-ATI merger does not bode well for Linux users, given ATI's abysmal track record.

        On the other hand, the open-source [sf.net] drivers are starting to get quite decent specially in latest Xorg/Mesa release (7.1/6.5.1). And given AMD's track of openness, maybe they'll help the community by trying to release as much as possible specs to promote development of a true useful (non binary-blob) solution. Let's hope and see whether the buyer's or the buyee's mentality will prevail.

        but with Intel's quad core processor

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:30PM (#16598832) Homepage

    AFAIK, this has always been AMDs problem: my earliest recollection is when they bought NexGen's K6 and sold it to Compaq in the sub-$1000 segment in 1995. Since then, anytime the get a good product, they blow it on production, leaving Intel to fill the void they created.

    It is where they have failed again and again and again. I can't believe they haven't learned yet.

    • by zensonic (82242)
      they blow it on production, leaving Intel to fill the void they created

      It's a bit harsh to say that they blow it on production. You do realize how much it costs to construct cleanrooms, right? All while still being profitable and pour lots of money into R&D.

      I think they are playing their cards to the best of their abilities.

      • I'm well aware of the costs of a fab.

        Well, they have a ton of fab capacity coming onlin in the next 18-24 months. Dresden was largely due to their K7 success, but it takes years to make a fab: they planned dresden 5~7 years ago.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Increased supply requires increased production capabilities, which more or less requires a new fab (factory) being built. No, generally you can not just add additional tools to an existing factory. Nor can you just make your workers work harder/faster. Most of the steps in the process are automated and require definite process times. So it's going to cost you. A state of the art fab today runs ~$4-5 Billion. It also takes well over a year to bring it up to full production status (depending on how many
    • Since then, anytime the get a good product, they blow it on production, leaving Intel to fill the void they created.

      There's a difference between a production problem and a capacity problem, though they both result in supply failing to meet demand. A production problem is when you theoretically could manufacture enough parts to satisfy demand, but your process, technology, or chip design is flawed and is not reliable enough to meet production goals. This is especially bad when you tell your customers that
      • I understand the risks of going public, but I also look at Intel dumping billions of profit into fabs.

        I just can't sit back and say, "It's the investor's fault AMD is hurting." AMD has been public for a long, long time. If the investors are such a risk maybe the should do some cost cutting and fund new fab capacity with profit rather than speculative public investor funds. If you want to say that investor's caused this, then you are saying AMD "plays the market" by putting important eggs in the public's
      • by ocbwilg (259828)
        Oh, but they have. In particular, they anticipated this problem years ago and started to build Fab 36, which is about to come on line right when their capacity issues are becoming a serious limiter to their growth. Fab 36 is going to mean a lot more capacity for AMD, and let them grow their marketshare by a lot. Now they may have production problems with the new fab, but once they get those worked out they won't be having any capacity problems for a while -- and if they do, they will giddily ply investors t
    • by ocbwilg (259828)
      AFAIK, this has always been AMDs problem: my earliest recollection is when they bought NexGen's K6 and sold it to Compaq in the sub-$1000 segment in 1995. Since then, anytime the get a good product, they blow it on production, leaving Intel to fill the void they created.

      Intel isn't in much better shape right now. Sure, the Core 2 Duo rocks. Everybody wants one. Unfortunately, the Core 2 Duo CPUs are still less than 25% of their desktop production. The rest of it is still the old Pentium D and Pentium
  • Not new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheezedawg (413482) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:38PM (#16598982) Journal
    This is not a new problem for AMD. They have always had problems keeping up with demand, and they have been capacity constrained for a few years now, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

    That's the dirty little secret about the semiconductor industry- success depends just as much on manufacturing ability as the features of the chip. Intel didn't just get their 300mm wafers and 65nm process overnight- they invested 10s of billions of dollars in manufacturing R&D. The result is they have unparalleled capacity and a huge technological lead over competitors with manufacturing technology. When a large OEM comes asking for 5 million units in the next quarter with a defect rate of less than 500 per million, there are very few companies that can deliver.
    • Re:Not new (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dastardly (4204) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:56PM (#16599324)
      Yep, that huge technological lead of a few months. This is the first time since really K5 that AMD has had production issues. And, the production issues described in the article are really the good kind. The early ones were the bad kind where the chip design itself caused the production problems. The good kind is where yields are good, speeds are good and the design is manufacturable. Your only issue is figuring out how to push more die through the line.

      Fab 36 will be online soon with 300mm wafers and 65nm. Just going to 300mm wafers pretty much doubles capacity. Going to 65nm gets you another say 50% (anyone got a confirmed number). Getting FAB 36 and FAB 30 going doubles capacity again. So, by my calculations that is 2 x 2 x 1.5 or 6x cpacity increase for AMD in the next couple of months.

      Did Intel switch to 65nm and 300mm sooner than AMD? Yes. Did they switch to copper and low-K dieelectric before AMD? No. Did their 90nm production even work quite right for Intel ever? Not sure. When the 90nm P4s used more power than their 130nm brethren you have to wonder.

      Of course Intel has something like 6 processro FABs all over the world that are likely larger than AMDs. Doesn't take much R&D just to build more capacity especially when you are the 800lb gorilla.

      Basically, Intel and AMD, at this time, are quality processor maufacturing operations. Intel tends to make technology switches before AMD, but they also get to deal with first adopter issues. And, when they both buy there equipment form the same semiconductor equipment manufacturers like Applied Materials, Novellus, and others. How much is AMD benefitting from Intel working out the bugs.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        Did Intel switch to 65nm and 300mm sooner than AMD? Yes. Did they switch to copper and low-K dieelectric before AMD? No. Did their 90nm production even work quite right for Intel ever? Not sure. When the 90nm P4s used more power than their 130nm brethren you have to wonder.

        I think Intel's 90nm process was working just fine such as it is. In my opinion the fact that the 90nm P4 burned more power than the 130nm P4 was due to two things:

        First, the Prescott core that was released in 90nm had more pipe stages t
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by onx (956508)
        Fab 36 is ALREADY online, albeit if at only 50% capacity, and using 300mm wafers.

        Fab 30 is currenty running at full capacity, but next year it will drop to 40% capacity as it switches to 300mm wafers & gets echristened Fab 38 in 2008.

        AMD is/will be outsourcing production to Chartered even though they just brought their new fab 36 online.

        I think Nikkon is also a big semiconductor equipment manufacturer. http://www.nikonusa.com/template.php?cat=3&grp=79 [nikonusa.com]
        • It's a while back I worked actively in semiconductor. But at that time it was Nikon, Canon and ASML who were the biggest wafer stepper manufacturers. Given the investments needed, I would be surprised if that has changed a lot.
      • Just going to 300mm wafers pretty much doubles capacity.

        Yup. The total area more than doubles moving between the two.

        Going to 65nm gets you another say 50% (anyone got a confirmed number).

        There are no confirmed numbers, because semiconductor makers play their hands close to their chests. All the interesting data is typically proprietary and treated as a trade secret.

        But the better estimate would be a straight shrink of the feature size + 5-10% for optimizations. The straight shrink of a 90nm feature size
      • Yep, that huge technological lead of a few months.

        The lead is 1 year. Intel shipped 65nm in December 2005. That is HUGE. You get to offer 2x transistor density for 1 whole year. Your cost per transistor is 50% cheaper for a year. In case you missed it, Intel made about 40 Billion dollars in its last fiscal year. That's no accident. They're able to generate that massive cashflow because they are one step ahead of everyone in the industry.

        Now, if you screw up the architecture, it turns out that you can
    • by evilviper (135110)

      They have always had problems keeping up with demand, and they have been capacity constrained for a few years now,

      More urban legend than reality. It's odd that AMD gets tagged as having "shortages" while Intel gets the opposite, despite MORE actual instances of Intel chip shortages than AMD has experienced in the past ~5 years.

      The result is they have unparalleled capacity and a huge technological lead over competitors with manufacturing technology.

      Right, that's why there were widespread Intel chipset short

  • by Numbah One (821914) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:40PM (#16599018)
    AMD has a lot of balls in the air right now
    Hopefully, they won't get them chopped off.
  • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:44PM (#16599112)
    when I took microelectronics courses in university about 15 years ago the lower limit for our process was around 2um (if I remember correctly) and my professor several times seemed to strongly believe that the lower limit for gate length was around 0.6-0.7um for various reasons. Nowadays we're way smaller than that, and it's getting even smaller as time goes on: is there a website somewhere that details exactly which theoretical advances have been made during the past 10-15 years to enable processes to continue getting smaller?
  • Moo (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:57PM (#16599332) Homepage Journal
    It's better than Intel's Pentium problem. They simply couldn't do the math!

    Q: Why did they call it a Pentium instead of 586.
    A: When they booted up the first Pentium and added 100 to 486, it answered 585.32752365107239874
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      At that time, some people at TI wrote a script for a spoof of the 2001 scene with Dave stuck outside. The problem with HAL was, of course, that he was built with a Pentium. It ended with HAL singing:
      Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
      Getting hazy, can't divide three by two.
      My answers, I can not see 'em,
      They're stuck in my Pentium

      It would be sweet, my answers fleet on a workable FPU

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @04:03PM (#16599414) Homepage

    AMD is converting Fab 30 in Dresden from 90um and 200mm wafers to Fab 38, with 65nm and 300mm wafers. This should come on line in 2007. Longer term, AMD is building a new fab in upstate New York [xbitlabs.com] for 32nm features on 300mm wafers. That should come on line in 2010.

    Meanwhile, AMD's main fab, Fab 36 in Dresden, is starting to produce 65nm features on 200mm wafers [theinquirer.net]. AMD is also outsourcing some production to a 65nm fab in Singapore [reghardware.co.uk].

    Down at the user level, this means that first shipments of AMD CPUs made with 65nm technology should appear in December of 2006. [reghardware.co.uk] Coming soon to Dell Dimension [fabtech.org] desktops.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ignignot (782335)
      Intel has a better shrink timeline for each of those steps compared to AMD. Intel will ship the next step from 65 (45? I forget) in 2H 2007. AMD is looking at 5 more years of lagged shrink.
  • ... but its dual-core Opteron and Athlon 64 processors contain two processing cores integrated onto a single piece of silicon, or a die. This design has given AMD great performance during the past few years ...
    That incorrectly implies Intel's designs aren't two cores on a single die. They've been putting two cores on a single die for quite a while now.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @04:09PM (#16599534)
    That's the traditional thing to do when demand outstrips your ability to supply.

     
    • That's the traditional thing to do when demand outstrips your ability to supply.

      Then you potentially alienate your customers, especially in a very competitive environment.
      "Hello Dell, not only are we not going to be able to give you enough chips to meet your orders, we're going to raise the price on you too." If that's not bad enough, because the CPU is just a part of the system, the customer is going to have to sit on a bunch of inventory (motherboards, network cards, cases) they can't build, which is g

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @04:37PM (#16600138)
    AMD used to make Pentium clones. Now, though, the AMD architecture is completely different from Intel's although they both will run the same software. The 64-bit AMD cpus seem to have fewer software faults when running Windows XP compared with the Intel P4s. This is an observation based on only a few systems and a LOT of things besides the cpu can affect that but I wonder if anyone else has noticed this (or maybe the opposite)? The comparisons between cpu architectures are always based on speed and benchmarks but not stability. Has anyone ever compared the different designs for how many GPFs they throw off, other things being equal? I was thinking maybe that's one of the reasons why the AMD systems are still selling so well, even though the new Intel Conroe is faster.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Has anyone ever compared the different designs for how many GPFs they throw off, other things being equal?

      A General Protection Fault is not a fault in the sense of a hardware flaw. It means that a process has attempted to access a segment for which it does not have the correct rights. Assuming correctly written software, the most likely cause of these is memory errors. If you are suffering from a lot of them, then I suggest you try switching to ECC RAM (or, at the very least, run memtest86 on the wor

    • by bky1701 (979071)
      You maybe seeing something different then what you think. Since I have gone from using a 1 core Intel to a 2 core AMD I have had far fewer system-disabling crashes, because most of the time only one core is crashed, leaving me the other to successfully kill the process or fix the problem. However, being a known fact AMDs run less hot then Intels, I would not be surprised if there were real processing errors occurring on Intels.
  • Pricing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tancred (3904) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @05:10PM (#16600708)
    When you can't make your product fast enough for all the demand, you're not charging enough. If you charge more, you can use that to increase manufacturing capacity. I'm sure someone at AMD understands that, so maybe they were caught off guard and are backfilling orders and have decided just to not reduce the price as early as they would have.
  • So much for all the AMD fans who were foaming at the mouth over Apple going with Intel.

    -jcr

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