The CPU Formerly Known As Barcelona is now officially the Quad-Core AMD Opteron, with the part numbers 13xx, 23xx and 83xx in AMD’s numbering system. Servers from Dell, IBM and HP are expected to start shipping to customers in the fourth quarter of this year.
Opteron will get its grand unveiling tonight at filmmaker George Lucas’s Lucasfilm campus on the grounds of The Presido in San Francisco.
Barcelona is fairly late. It should have been out at least six months ago, AMD
officials have conceded. “The reason we’re later than we want to be is we have all these new technologies on the chip,” Steve Demski, Opteron product manager at AMD told InternetNews.com.
Those new technologies include CoolCore, which turns off unused parts of the processor, Independent Dynamic Core Technology, an enhancement to AMD PowerNow! Technology that allows each core to vary its clock frequency depending upon its workload, and Dual Dynamic Power Management (DDPM), which provides an independent power supply to the cores and to the memory controller, allowing the cores and memory controllers to operate on different voltages, determined by usage.
Semiconductor analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 said the delay is not unrecoverable. “If this product had showed up in February/March as they originally planned, all the stories about AMD being on the ropes would never have emerged,” he told InternetNews.com.
“That’s unfortunate but it’s not like it’s life threatening. Now that they are able to ship it, even if it’s not at the ideal frequency, it demonstrates the product is out now, and users can get their hands on these chips and find out how good they are,” he said.
The Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors also sport new features specifically designed for virtualization, thanks to the integrated memory controller. The Rapid Virtualization Indexing, formerly called Nested Paging, reduces the overhead of virtualization software and better handles memory for near-real time application performance.
AMD made sure to keep the same thermal rating as existing dual core Opteron processors, so upgrading an existing server is as easy as a BIOS
“Many end customers are dealing with power limits,” said Demski. “The beautiful thing is because we operate in the same thermal limits, that’s a no-brainer. You can get much better performance in the same power band.”
AMD is introducing a new method of power rating it says will make it easier to estimate power requirements. Both Intel
and AMD use a bench mark called TDP, or Thermal Design Power. Intel uses it to measure the average amount of power used while AMD uses the term to define the maximum power draw, and Demski said it was confusing customers.
So AMD is introducing a different acronym, Average CPU Power, or ACP. ACP will be similar to Intel’s TDP in estimating the power draw. “ACP will give better info for budgeting purposes and give a more accurate picture of the power needed,” said Demski.
The processors will come in 95 and 68 watt configurations. The top of the line will be a 2.0GHz processor while the bottom end will be 1.7GHz. Demski said the company expects to hit 2.5GHz by the end of the year.
While some issue has been made of the clock speed, AMD claims internal benchmarks show an 80 percent performance improvement on database benchmarks when comparing a 2Ghz quad-core processor against a 3GHz dual core Opteron.
Brookwood said higher clock speeds would have helped, but still feels it’s a competitive chip against Intel. “It’s got a very pedigreed architecture, and Intel has yet to adapt the same architectural concepts that AMD has been refining,” he said. “Intel has a substantial clock frequency advantage and AMD will have a substantial architecture advantage. It will take a lot of testing and probably vary greatly from workload to workload whether frequency trumps architecture or architecture trumps frequency.”
AMD also has other releases in the works. Phenom, the desktop quad core processor that will replace the Athlon line, is due for release in December.
Budapest, a single socket version of Barcelona for desktop workstations, will come out next year. “Our bread and butter is the two-way market, and the four-way market is where there’s the most margin. That’s where the focus is. The [1-way] 1000 series ends up third on the priority list,” said Demski.