AMD CEO Hector Ruiz will formally unveil the quad-core Opteron chip, previously code-named Barcelona, during
Intel has had quad-core chips for servers since last November. The company chose anmethod of putting four processing cores together by simply packaging two dual-core chips together. AMD took a different approach, integrating all four cores onto a single chip, with the belief that having all four cores together was a better fit for its architecture.
Will that insistence on a specific design goal make a difference? In some ways, it already has.
prices this year to compete against Intel's quad-core chips, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The
But AMD will not deliver--at least not yet--on, corporate vice president of AMD's server and workstation division, in January. "We expect across a wide variety of workloads for Barcelona to outperform Clovertown by 40 percent," Allen said. In May, "will be the highest-performing x86 chip out there. It will blow away Clovertown."
There was no proof to those statements in the test results AMD distributed ahead of the Barcelona launch. In its briefing materials, the company touted only benchmark results that emphasized floating-point performance and memory bandwidth, which have always been strengths of the Opteron processor but do not cover the entire spectrum of the server market. And even among those benchmarks, Barcelona outperformed Intel's Xeon X5345 processor by more than 40 percent on only three criteria.
Barcelona will arrive in three different categories for high-performance, standard-issue, and energy-efficient server models. The high-performance models won't be available until the fourth quarter, but two standard and three energy efficient processors are now available for two-socket servers, the dominant segment of the market. Two processors for four-socket servers in both the standard and energy-efficient categories also will be available.
In the standard category, AMD will launch processors at 2GHz and 1.9GHz, costing $389 and $319, respectively. The energy-efficient Opterons will launch at 1.9GHz, 1.8GHz and 1.7GHz.
That's slower than some had expected from Barcelona, and could have something to do with the company's earlier
AMD plans to launch 2.3GHz high-performance versions in the fourth quarter and will likely boost clock speed as momentum starts to grow behind the chip. The company demonstrated a 3GHz Barcelona chip at its analyst day in July. Clock speed is by no means the only measure of processor performance, but it is an important measure.
As a result, AMD will initially market its chips in part by using a new metric it developed for measuring the average power consumed by its processors.for companies looking to build large data centers. It's increasingly more expensive to provide electricity and cooling to data centers than it is to buy the servers themselves, forcing the chip and server industries to work on building more energy-efficient products.
But AMD customers who relied on the company's previous power metric of TDP (thermal design power) were putting too many resources into cooling and electrical supply, said Bruce Shaw, director of server and workstation marketing for AMD. That's because TDP was developed so server manufacturers would know much power the chip consumes in worst-case maximum-power situations that very rarely occur, and design their systems accordingly, he said.
So now AMD will advise customers of an Opteron processor's average CPU (central processing unit) power, or ACP. "ACP is meant to be the best real-world end-user estimate of what they are likely to see from the power consumption on the processor," Shaw said.