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Another day, another microprocessor delay

The delayed release of AMD's Barcelona is no big deal.

CNET's Stephen Shankland wrote on Friday about AMD's announcement that its four-core Barcelona server processor has been delayed until August. This is just a couple of months later than the previous estimate of "mid-year." Faster versions will arrive in the fourth quarter.

Shankland did a good job with the story, as usual. He skipped quickly over the "delay" issue because that's not really very important. Two months' delay in any product is costly and unfortunate, but it's usually a second-order effect.

What really matters is the value of the product when it does arrive. According to AMD, Barcelona will reach only 2.0 GHz in August, and the company has estimated that the new chip will outperform Intel's competing Xeon 5300 server processor on integer tasks (the most important kind for servers) by 20% at the same frequency.

But unfortunately for AMD, Intel sells a 3.0 GHz model of the Xeon 5300. It's been on the market for months. If the best AMD can ship is something equivalent to a 2.4 GHz Xeon, it won't produce much profit per unit and AMD won't sell very many, either. Bad all around for AMD.

The scalability of AMD's system architecture is fundamentally better than Intel's, so builders of large systems will still find some sockets for the new chips. And AMD says it'll ship low-power versions of Barcelona in August as well; these chips will be welcomed by makers of high-density blade servers.

All in all, the announcement of the Barcelona delay isn't a big problem for AMD. The worst part about it, really, is that it dashes the hope of the AMD faithful that Barcelona might ship in June at 2.6 GHz. This new chip might bring AMD out of its slump, but it'll take a while longer.