The CPU Building Block

AMD decided to take a completely different approach in the new Bulldozer architecture. They decided to create a “dual-core” module that shares some resources (the front-end engine, the floating-point unit, and the L2 memory cache, see Figure 1) and, therefore, are not completely independent from each other.

AMD BulldozerFigure 1: Bulldozer building block

According to AMD this was done in order to optimize the CPU and, at the same time, cut costs. The optimization comes from the fact that on a typical multi-core CPU several units inside the CPU remain idle, and these units could be combined in the Bulldozer architecture. And since the CPU will have less units, it can be smaller, which reduces the amount of material necessary to build the CPU, reducing costs. Having less units also help saving energy and reducing the amount of generated heat.

So while AMD will call a CPU that has one of these modules a “dual-core” CPU, in reality the CPU isn’t true a dual-core product, because there aren’t two complete and complete CPUs inside the product. The “dual-core” name in this case will be used for marketing purposes, to make sure the consumer understands that although this Bulldozer-based CPU isn’t a true “dual-core” model, it should perform like one.

Going further, for making a “quad-core” CPU, AMD will get two of these blocks and put together, so while physically speaking the processor has actually two “CPUs” inside (two of the building blocks shown in Figure 1), and not four, AMD will still call it a “quad-core” product. In Figure 2, you can see how an “eight-core” CPU based on the Bulldozer architecture would look like.

AMD BulldozerFigure 2: Eight-core CPU based on the Bulldozer architecture

Let’s now take an in-depth look at the Fetch and Decode units used on the Bulldozer architecture.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.