RealTime IT News

AMD Continues Barcelona Striptease

SAN FRANCISCO - For those of you following AMD's march to quad-core, this just in: Barcelona is still not shipping.

Ever since Intel beat AMD  to the punch last fall when it shipped Clovertown, its quad-core Xeon 5300 chip, AMD has been trying to keep its own quad-core plans in the spotlight. AMD's Barcelona is considered by some to be a "truer" or native quad-core design versus Intel's which is essentially two dual-core Xeon's engineered to work together as four computing cores.

Nevertheless, Intel drew first blood and AMD's Barcelona isn't due out till later this summer. AMD has discussed performance and previewed prototypes at various events, but this week, AMD gave a demonstration of Barcelona's performance versus a system outfitted with a standard AMD dual-core Opteron processor. The company also showed off a wafer it said showed Barcelona is near ready for manufacturing.

In the demonstration, the dual-core system had a few seconds' head start with a ray tracing &NBSPprogram called POV-Ray and finished a sophisticated drawing in about 116 seconds. The quad-core system finished in 62 seconds. AMD officials said the dual-core chip was not AMD's fastest and the prototype Barcelona will perform faster when it ships.

Randy Allen, vice president of AMD's server and workstation division, said Barcelona will offer several competitive advantages. For one thing, it's a simple upgrade from Opteron, the chip just needs to be dropped in. Also Allen promised there won't be a single incremental difference in power and wattage. "That's unprecedented in this industry," said Allen. "You won't be able to touch the performance per watt Barcelona represents."

As for performance alone, Allen said Barcelona will be the highest performing x86 processor out there "and blow away Clovertown in every dimension."

Steve Herrod, vice president of technology development at VMware, can't wait for Barcelona-based quad-core systems to start shipping. "We'll be able to take advantage of the extra cores for security, management and i/o offload," said Herrod.

He also said Barcelona would help close the gap that currently exists between traditional applications and those running a virtualized environment. "We believe the killer app for multi-core is virtualization," he said.

Insight64 analyst Nathan Brookwood agreed virtualization is a key benefit for both AMD and Intel. "Quad-core directly translates into fewer software licenses, less power and more virtual machines," he told internetnews.com.

Brookwood credits Intel with doing "a phenomenal job" of seeding the market, including hardware manufacturers and customers, with early versions of Clovertown to juice up interest. He doesn't expect AMD to match Intel's marketing muscle, but thinks AMD has a strong performance story.

"When AMD had higher performance with Opteron, Intel dropped prices but it didn't affect AMD because in the server world performance matters a lot," said Brookwood. If AMD stays on track and delivers on its performance promises, he thinks AMD will get back to chipping away at Intel's market share.