AMD unveils Barcelona at last

Three months after its original launch date, Barcelona has arrived, with executives confident it will triumph over Intel's quad-core offerings
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor on

AMD has unveiled its first set of quad-core processors, three months after the original launch date.

Code-named Barcelona, the long-awaited Opteron quad-core server chip comprises four processing cores on a single piece of silicon, and it is this "complicated" design that resulted in the delay, said AMD chief executive Hector Ruiz in an earlier interview.

The delay puts the chipmaker a full generation behind its archrival in terms of chip manufacturing processes. Intel's quad-core processor, which was launched in November last year, melds two of its dual-core processors into a single package.

AMD, however, appears unfazed by its competitor's head start and is confident its "native" quad-core design will trump Intel's version of quad-core processor in terms of performance and power efficiencies.

"Choice is good, [and] customers should have choice. Let the best platform win," John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for AMD's server and workstation division, said at a media briefing last month. He noted that since the first Opteron was introduced in the market three years ago, 90 percent of the systems manufacturers that cover the addressable market server offer AMD's Opteron.

"Today marks one of the great milestones in microprocessor achievement... We've worked closely with our customers and partners to design a new generation of processing solutions embodied by today's quad-core AMD Opteron processor — a four-way winner in performance, energy efficiency, virtualisation and investment protection — [and] early customer response has been extremely positive," Ruiz said in a statement.

New developments
"The fact that it has four cores is probably the most boring part," Fruehe said, noting that Barcelona is not just about multiple cores.

AMD wants computer buyers to look beyond its quad-core processing technology and to focus on other features. For instance, Fruehe said: "There's a new 2MB level 3 cache that all four cores can share, [and] each core continues to have its own independent level 2 cache, so that you get better performance".

Fruehe also claimed that the processor has "significantly better efficiency" and "the exact same power thermals" as its dual-core chip, a result of the chip redesign in the move from a 90nm (nanometre) to a 65nm manufacturing process.

"There's a lot of momentum behind Opteron, and it's going to continue to grow," Fruehe said, noting that the quad-core chip is being deployed on Sun's platforms at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in the US.

Barcelona comes in three categories: high-performance, standard-performance and energy-efficient server models, but only the standard (up to 2GHz) and energy-efficient (up to 1.9GHz) categories will be available at launch. The high-performance Opterons, together with higher frequencies of the standard and energy-efficient chips, are expected in the out in the fourth quarter of this year.

According to Fruehe, the first Barcelona processors were shipped for revenue at the end of July.

AMD's quad-core desktop offerings, Phenom, are expected to be available in December this year, the company said.

Last week, Intel completed the launch of its first generation quad-core line of products, which are based on a 65nm manufacturing process, with the Tigerton quad-core chip. The chip giant claimed to have shipped over one million units worldwide within three quarters of its introduction.

There are rumours circulating that Intel will announce in November its second generation of quad-core chips — code-named "Penryn" — based on its 45nm manufacturing process.

Intel has said that it will ship its Nehalem family of processors in 2008, and plans to introduce its 32nm manufacturing process in 2009.

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