Wait Over For AMD’s Quad-Core Opterons

It’s been delayed many times, but AMD’s Barcelona processors, formally known as the Quad-Core Opteron, are finally shipping.

The processors were due more than a year ago but were repeatedly postponed. Then came the launch event in August 2007, with chips in the 1.8GHz to 2.0GHz range and the promise of a 2.5GHz model by December.

Next came the errata bug, which cropped up only in certain circumstances, but it was enough to force the company to halt production. The bug is fixed, and now, more than a year late, AMD has quad-core processors available in volume.

This announcement comes as eight system vendors, including Sun and HP, are offering Quad-Core Opteron servers. HP introduced a giant system with eight processors. “With everyone talking about virtualization, it just becomes natural to have an eight-processor system with 32 cores to reduce some of the sprawl you see in the datacenter,” Fruehe said.

AMD is starting off with 2.0GHz to 2.3GHz models. Later this quarter will come the 55-watt 1.8GHz and 1.8GHz models, and by the end of Q2, AMD plans to release the high-performance processors, which will run at 2.4GHz and 2.5GHz.

While some industry pundits have complained that the processors are too slow when compared with Intel’s Xeons, John Fruehe, worldwide market development manager for server workstation products at AMD, said it’s not about clock speed.

“Customers that have actually used the processors recognize that clock speed doesn’t necessarily cycle back to the performance and efficiency we offer,” he said. “We still managed to hold on to market share when they didn’t have a quad core to compete. We’re shipping to a lot of customers who have been waiting for quite a while.”

The Quad-Core Opteron chips are socket-compatible with most existing
Dual-Core Opterons. All that’s required is a BIOS upgrade. Fruehe promises that Shanghai, the next version of Quad-Core Opterons but built the cooler 45nm process using high-k metal gate technology such as Intel’s Penryn line will also be socket compatible.

“So people making investments in Opteron will be able to take advantage of continual platform upgrades as well as keeping a consistent platform in the datacenter,” he said.

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