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December 19, 2011
AMD has been having performance issues with its new Bulldozer CPUs, and a fix by Microsoft had to be abandoned before it could do any good. What’s the story? Read on and find out.
For the uninitiated, AMD’s Bulldozer CPU, which was supposed to be a powerhouse of a processor, came out of the gate with a stunted start, hardly competing with Intel’s existing offerings and barely outperforming its own AMD predecessors. The reason? Apparently, the CPU was uniquely designed for peak performance in “turbo” and multithreaded multiprocessing applications such as server workloads. And while the CPU crunches through non-optimized software just fine, it doesn’t represent a step up from previous-generation CPUs.
Ars Technica delved deep into the issue, and summed it up thus:
… [AMD] must have known about the weak single-threaded performance and the detrimental effect this would have in real-world applications long before the product actually shipped, so why stick with it? Perhaps AMD’s anticipation of high clock speeds caused the company to stick with the design, and there’s still a possibility that it might one day attain those clock speeds …
Enter: Microsoft and the hotfix:
… AMD and Microsoft are continually working to improve hardware and software for our shared customers. As part of our joint work to optimize the performance of “Bulldozer” architecture-based AMD processors we are collaborating on a scheduler update to the Windows 7 code-base.
For Microsoft to rewrite some code to take advantage of an AMD -pecific CPU is really an interesting move. However, the results were less than stellar, and in some cases, a detriment. According to VR-Zone.com:
… Microsoft [said] this patch increases performance anywhere between 2-7%, which is not bad for a software update. However, upon releasing the update into the wild, there were users that reported problems and even performance decrease. In order to address the matter, Microsoft pulled down the patch.
Now that Bulldozer users are back at square one, it will be a difficult time to find out what AMD’s future strategy is. Bulldozer’s issues, coupled with AMD’s botched production of new APUs, could spell disaster for a period in time when mobile CPUs and server CPUS are at the heart of the ever-growing post-PC, cloud-enabled world. Stay tuned for AMD’s Q4 earnings, which are slated for Jan. 24, 2012. Chances are, it will paint a better picture of what AMD’s strengths and weaknesses will be going into the next year.
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