AMD: ‘No Delay In Opteron Shipments’

AMD is denying reports that it stopped shipments of its Quad Core Opteron server processor, a.k.a. “Barcelona,” and the new quad core desktop chip Phenom due to processor errata.

Microprocessor errata is a common problem that occurs during manufacturing, where errors in the microcode cause errors while performing certain operations. The most famous example was the 1994 “Pentium bug” that caused errors in converting floating point numbers to integers.

Reports of errata severe enough to cause a “stop ship” order on the Opterons first ran on The Tech Report site and was picked up by tech news aggregator Slashdot.

AMD spokesperson Phil Hughes spoke to after dealing with Wall Street analysts concerned about the reports. He does not deny the errata exists, but said there was no stoppage in manufacturing.

“We haven’t changed the shipping pattern,” he said. “It’s only a stop ship if it’s shipping in volume, and we’re only shipping Barcelona for specific customer commitments, like larger volume deployments. Phenom is out in the channel, in general availability now. There has been no stop ship at all.”

Dean McCarron, president of Mercury Research, said he hadn’t heard about AMD halting shipments of the Opteron, either. “There is product out there. If there weren’t, no one would know about the errata,” he joked.

Erratum are not universal problems in that they affect every task. They may only arise under certain conditions or for certain applications. In the case of the Quad Core Opteron errata, it showed up under a specific heavy workload and could cause the system to hang, said Hughes.

He added it only showed up in test environments, that no customers have seen it, and that there is a work-around in the BIOS . When AMD goes into general volume shipments for the Quad Core Opteron next year, Hughes expects this particular error to be fixed, although there’s no promises another one might not show up, such is the nature of erratum.

For now, Quad Core Opterons are only shipping to specific customer deployments, such as the massive Sun/TACC supercomputer in Austin, Texas. Volume shipments are scheduled for the first quarter of next year to mainstream computer manufacturers, at which point AMD expects to have higher clock speeds than the introductory speeds of 1.8GHz to 2.0GHz, which were greeted with some complaints.

McCarron said major computer makers have told him they plan to begin volume production of Quad Core Opteron-based systems when AMD begins volume shipments next year and bumps its speed. “The initial launch speed wasn’t what they wanted in terms of speed. They made it clear when the higher speeds were available they would be more aggressive in ramping,” he said.

AMD took a hit on Wednesday when Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Kevin Cassidy cut his 2008 revenue outlook for the company to $6.4 billion from $6.6 billion. So while Intel enjoyed an up day (up $0.91 or 3.46 percent), AMD fell $0.34, or 3.7 percent.

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