Sunny Cove Microarchitecture: A Peek At the Back End

One of the best parts when a new microarchitecture is announced is learning how it all works and how it has changed. Intel has been on close variants of the Skylake core since Skylake first launched in 2015, which has carried through Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Coffee Lake refresh – and so getting an update to his old core design is more than welcome. While I applaud Intel for getting something new to put in front of our faces, the level of information was unfortunately less than complete. For reasons of ‘we’ll discuss more nearer the launch’, Intel was only set on discussing the back end of the microarchitecture design in any detail. In core design parlance, this means everything beyond the dispatch and order queues.

Intel framed its microarchitecture updates into two different sections: general purpose performance increases and special purpose performance increases. The company described the general purpose updates essentially as raw IPC (instructions per clock) throughput or an increase in frequency. An increase in either of these two leads to a performance increase no matter the code, at least as long as it is compute bound. Frequency is often a function of the implementation and process, whereas IPC increases can come from cores being wider (more executing instructions per clock), deeper (more parallelism per clock), and smarter (better data delivery through the front end).

The other type of performance increase is the special purpose kind, which means that certain workloads used in specific scenarios can be improved through additional acceleration methods, such as dedicated IP or specialized instructions.

Sunny Cove is set to have both.

On the back end of the microarchitecture design, Intel has done several things including increasing cache sizes, making the execution of the core wider, increasing L1 store bandwidth, and other things.

Starting with the cache improvements, the Sunny Cove core back end has a 48 KB L1 Data cache, upgraded from 32 KB. Normally cache misses decrease by a factor of a square root of the proportional size when the cache is increased, so in this case we should expect a 22% reduction in L1-Data cache misses. We are told that the L2 cache size has also been increased in both the Core and Xeon variants of Sunny Cove (256 KB and 1 MB respectively), although to exactly what size will be revealed at a later date.

While not back-end, the micro-op (uOp) cache has increased from a 2048-entry design, although exactly to what Intel is not saying at this point. The second level TLB size has also increased, which will help with machine address translation of recent addresses – normally this is increased when more lookups need to be kept and stored, which means that Intel identified a number of use cases where recent addresses had been evicted shortly before being needed.

From the diagram we can see some other changes, such as the increase in execution ports from eight to ten, allowing more instructions to come out of the schedulers at one time. Port 4 and Port 9 is linked to a cycling data store, doubling that bandwidth, but also the AGU store capabilities have doubled, for which the increased L1-D size will help. Previously on Skylake there was a potential bottleneck when all three AGUs could attempt a store, however only enough bandwidth was present for one per clock cycle. Load performance is unaffected.  There is also an allocation increase, moving from four to five. This means that the dispatch out of the reorder buffer can now hit five instructions per cycle, rather than four – however given that the ops/cycle out of the Skylake decoders and uOp cache was four-to-five (depending on certain factors), it will be interesting to see how the front end has changed as a result.

There are also substantial changes in the execution ports between Skylake and Sunny Cove, which is best represented in a diagram and a table:

Back-End Execution Resources
Skylake Port Sunny Cove
  JMP Shift ALU 0 ALU LEA Shift JMP
  Mul LEA ALU 5 ALU LEA MulHi  
  JMP Shift ALU 6 ALU LEA Shift JMP
Vector / FP
fpDIV Shift ALU FMA 0 FMA ALU Shift fpDIV
  Shift ALU FMA 1 FMA ALU Shift Shuffle
  Shuffle ALU FMA 5 FMA ALU Shuffle  

The parts highlighted in bold are different in the Sunny Cove core.

We see that Intel has equipped the Integer section of the core with more LEA units to help with memory addressing calculations, possibly to help improve performance loss with security mitigations that require frequent memory calculations or to help with high-performance array code with constant offsets. Port 1 gets the Mul unit from Skylake Port 5, probably for rebalancing purposes, but there is also an integer divider unit here. This addition is a bit of a tweak, as we know that Cannon Lake has a 64-bit IDIV unit in its design as well. In that case it brings 64-bit integer division down from 97 clocks (a mix of instructions) down to 18 clocks, and this is likely something similar. Also on the INT side is that Port 5’s multiply unit has become a ‘MulHi’ unit which in other implementations leave most-significant nibble of the result in a register for further use. I'm not sure exactly what its position is here in the Sunny Cove core though.

On the FP side, Intel has increased the shuffle resources, which we are told was because they had customers requesting this functionality to help remove bottlenecks in their code. Intel didn’t state the capabilities for the FMAs in the FP part of the core, however we do know that the core has an AVX-512 unit, so at least one of these FMAs should interface with it. Cannon Lake only has one 512-bit FMA, and that most likely carries over here, and the Xeon Scalable version might get two. I would like to get proved wrong though.

Other updates to the core as listed from Intel include improvements to the branch predictor and a reduced ‘effective load latency’ (due to the TLB and L1-D), although it was pointed out that these improvements won’t help everyone, and might require new algorithms in order to use specific parts of the core.

We’re waiting to see what changes Intel has made on the front-end, which is where a lot of low-hanging fruit often lies for performance.

On top of the microarchitecture differences, there are new instructions for the Sunny Cove core to help speed up specialist compute tasks. With the AVX-512 unit in play, the new core will support IFMA instructions for big arithmetic compute, and which are also useful in cryptography. Along the same lines, Vector-AES (supporting more AES concurrently) and Vector Carryless Multiply are also supported. SHA and SHA-NI instructrions are also added, along with Galois Field instructions, which are fundamental building blocks in some elements of cryptography as well.

For Sunny Cove, there is also built-in support for larger memory capacities. The paging table for main memory is now a five layer design, up from four layers, supporting a Linear Address space up to 57 bits and a physical address space up to 52 bits. This means, according to Intel, that the server processors could theoretically support 4 TB of memory per socket. We will see Sunny Cove hit the market in the server space with Ice Lake-SP in 2020 according to Intel’s previous Xeon roadmaps.   For security, Sunny Cove has access to Multi-Key Total Memory Encryption, and User Mode Instruction Prevention.

So where does this leave us in terms of Sunny Cove predicted performance compared to Skylake at a clock for clock level? Unfortunately we don’t have enough information. There is only enough to whet the appetite. Intel wants you (and me) to come back for more in 2019.

The CPU Core Roadmaps The Next Generation Gen11 Graphics: Playable Games and Adaptive Sync!


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  • ajc9988 - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link
    Risk production is in Q2 next year. And Mass is listed by Q2 2020 for 5nm.
    So, I was a bit off by the estimate for volume being 2020, but you were off on when risk production starts. Meanwhile, 7nm+ is already confirmed for AMD on Zen3, as the benefits of 5nm+ don't outweigh the costs associated moving to the process for AMD. This is why it is thought AMD will skip 5nm and try 3nm when available. But, TSMC has not said when 3nm will be available, while Samsung is saying 3nm in 2021: (saying TSMC 3nm in 2022/23)

    I cannot find the article speculating Apple will be the first customer on 5nm EUV and when ATM.
  • HStewart - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    "Nodes are marketing jargon"

    Exactly - it reminds me the frequence wars back in P4 days. But if you look closely at Intel's plan - I am no chip designer - even though I did take Micro-code Enginnering classes in College, but Foveros is revolutionary design - I thought EMiB was amazing, but to do that in 3rd diminsion is awesome - maybe one they could even stack cores that way - instead huge chip monsters.

    But a nm rating by vendor 1 does not nm rating by vendor 2 - what underneath makes the different - Intel is extremely smart to decouple nm process from actual archexture. If you notice by Intel archiexture Intel has more improvements in core archiexture over next 3 years - this is because they are not limited by process (nm)
  • ajc9988 - Friday, December 14, 2018 - link

    EMIB was not revolutionary and neither is foveros. They are incremental steps and existing competing solutions are available and have been for some time. Not only that, it will only be used on select products with eventual spread to the stack.

    Go to the second page of comments and see my links there. I think you will find those quite interesting. Not only that, this has been done with HBM for years now. If you look at AMD's research, almost half a decade ago, they were studying optimal topologies for active interposers. They found only 1-10% of the area was needed for the logic routing of an active interposer. Moving a couple I/O items onto the active interposer just is an extension. In fact, you can put those components on a spread out interposer between the above chiplets that sit on the interposer, but would need to plan on the heat dissipation or having so low a heat that it doesn't need sinked.

    Considering lack of details of what is on the active interposer or timeline for mainstream, HEDT, and server markets, I will assume those won't see this until 2020, with the first products being mobile in nature.

    In fact, Intel this summer gave AIB patents to DARPA to try to control what tech is used for chiplets moving forward, proposing that be used. AMD proposed a routing logic protocol which would be agnostic to routing on the chiplets itself, increasing compatibility moving forward.

    Now, if EMIB is so "revolutionary", do the Intel with AMD GPUs seem revolutionary? Because that is the only product that comes to mind that uses it. Those chips are Hyades Canyon and Crimson Canyon. It isn't that dissimilar to other data fabric uses.

    So far, on disintegration of chip components, AMD's Epyc 2 is getting there. It literally uses just cores and the interconnect for the chiplet (for this description, I am including cache with the cores, but when latency is reduced with active interposers, I do expect an L3 or L4 or higher caches or integrated memory on package to be introduced external to the "core" chiplet moving forward). From there, we could see the I/O elements further subdivided, we could see GPU, modems, etc. But all of this has been planned since the 2000s, so I don't see anything new other than the culmination around the same time other alternative solutions are being offered, just that the cost/benefit analysis has not tipped in its favor just yet, but should in the next year or so, which should bring many more designs to the forefront. Here is a presentation slideshow discussing the state of current 2.5D and 3D packaging. After review, I'd like to hear if you still think EMIB and Foveros are "revolutionary." Don't get me wrong, they are an incremental success and should be honored as such. But revolutionary is too strong a word for incremental process. Overall, it changes nothing and is the culmination of a lot of work over a decade by numerous companies and engineers. Even competing solutions can act as inspiration for another company moving forward and Intel's engineers read the whitepapers and published peer reviewed articles on the cutting edge, just like everyone else in the industry.

    As to you saying Intel is smart to do it, they haven't done it except in silicon in labs and in papers, unless talking the EMIB with Intel CPU. AMD has a product line, Epyc 2, where the I/O is made at GF on 14nm and the chiplet is made on 7nm TSMC with greater pitch disparity. Intel hasn't really removed the components off the core chip yet into each separate element. ARM is considering something similar, and this is the logical progression for the custom designed chips for RISC V moving forward (may take a little longer, less well funded).

    Meanwhile, this doesn't seem to stack high performance cores on high performance cores. The problem of thermals cooking the chip are too great to solve at this moment, which is why low power components are being placed relative to the higher performance (read as higher heat producing) components. Nothing wrong with that, it makes sense.

    But, what doesn't make sense is your flowering lavish praise on Intel for something that doesn't seem all that extraordinary in light of the industry as a whole.
  • johannesburgel - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    People keep saying the same thing about Intel's 14nm process, which is allegedly equal or better than other fab's 10nm processes. But AMD currently makes products on 14nm and 12 nm processes which Intel apparently can't build on its own 14nm process. For example there is still no 32-core Xeon while AMD will soon ship 64 core EPYCs and lots of other companies have 32/48/64 core designs on the market. Many Intel CPUs have much higher effective TDPs than their equivalent AMD CPUs.

    So pardon me if I am not willing to simply believe in all this "Intel's process is better in the end" talk.
  • HStewart - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    But intel's single core performance is better than AMD's single core performance. Just because AMD glues 8 core cpus together does not make them better Reply
  • Icehawk - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    Node isn't even close to everything. Reply
  • Rudde - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    Gen 11 graphics in desktops is said to reach double the performance of gen 9.5 desktop graphics. 2W Atoms have half the max frequency of desktop graphics and half or three quarters of the execution units. The 7W custom hybrid processor has the full amount of execution units. I'd guess it has half the frequency of it's desktop counterpart to stay within power limits. This would put it at the same performance as 9.5-gen desktop parts, or actually at 30% higher performance.

    Think about that. 80% single thread performance compared to current high-end desktop processors (my quick est.) and 130% graphics performance. That's a solid notebook for web browsing, legacy programs and even for light gaming. All that at a power budget of a tablet.

    If I were to bet, I'd bet on a MS Surface Book.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    Now that would be nice! Reply
  • Intel999 - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    Keep in mind that 3DXpoint came to market three years past the initial promise from Intel. 10nm will be appearing 4 or 5 years late depending on when volume production materializes.

    Chances are that this 3D stacked promise for late 2019 will show up around 2022.

    I'm seeing alot of fellow Intel fanboys show a semblance of confidence that has been absent in recent months and rightfully so.

    Let's all hope Intel can deliver this time on time.
  • ajc9988 - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    I disagree on worrying about Intel with the active interposer. They use passive interposers for the mesh on HEDT and Xeons and Xeon Phi (since around 2014) for years now. The 22nm active interposer is to fill out fab time due to pushing chipsets back to plants that were going to be shut down due to moving to 10nm, which never came.

    Meanwhile, AMD did a 2017 cost analysis saying that below 32nm would cost as much as a monolithic die, so it seems they are waiting due to cost, not on technical capability.

    Either way, Intel doesn't hit 7nm until 2021, around the time 3nm may be ready at TSMC, if they go to 3nm within a year of volume 5nm products expected in 2020. That means Intel will never regain the process lead moving forward in any significant way, unless everyone else gets stuck on cobalt integration.

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