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  program 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.

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