Friday, 20 June 2014 09:16

AMD chasing energy efficiency gains

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Chipmaker AMD is aiming for substantial energy efficiency gains in its products over the rest of the decade.

After improving the average energy efficiency of its products by more than tenfold during the last six years, AMD has set itself the goal of a 25x improvement for accelerated processing units over the next six.

"Creating differentiated low-power products is a key element of our business strategy, with an attending relentless focus on energy efficiency," said CTO Mark Papermaster.

"Through APU architectural enhancements and intelligent power efficient techniques, our customers can expect to see us dramatically improve the energy efficiency of our processors during the next several years. Setting a goal to improve the energy efficiency of our processors 25 times by 2020 is a measure of our commitment and confidence in our approach."

In general, the energy efficiency of a given design improves as the size of the individual transistors on the chip shrink with successive improvements in process technology, but that's not going to be enough to reach AMD's target. There are three aspects to the company's approach to getting ahead of that curve:

  • Combining CPU and GPU cores with special purpose accelerators such as DSPs (digital signal processors) and video encoders all on one chip, allowing workloads to be directed to the appropriate component, improving performance and energy efficiency at the same time.
  • Improved power management through optimising clock speeds to complete tasks as quickly as possible (but without running any of the processing units faster than necessary), thus spending as much time as possible in a low-power idle state.
  • The application of AMD's ongoing research and development of power-saving technologies to future products.

Industry analyst firm Tirias Research has reviewed AMD's plans, and analyst Kevin Krewell said "We believe that AMD will achieve its energy efficiency goal, partially through process improvement but mostly by combining the saving from reducing idle power, the performance boost of heterogeneous system architecture, and through more intelligent power management."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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