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AMD demos four-core Opteron

Going native in Barcelona

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AMD has demo'd its upcoming quad-core Opteron server processor, a few days after launching the gamer-oriented Quad FX, which despite its name is a dual-core part.

The CPU, codenamed 'Barcelona', was announced in October this year at the Fall Processor Forum. Then, AMD said the chip would incorporate a doubling of the width of the bus feeding the chip's vector processing engine to 128 bits, and an upgraded memory controller design which can handle FB-DIMM and DDR 3 memory.

Barcelona contains 2MB of L3 cache shared among the four cores, each of which has 512KB of L2 cache all to itself. The chip also incorporates hardware-controlled memory page nesting to accelerate the manipulation of memory addresses when the CPU's virtualisation technology is in operation, AMD has said in the past.

AMD's quad-core Opteron isn't due to ship until mid-2007, some six months after Intel's quad-core Xeons, which were launched last month. AMD's pitch is that its chips are 'true' quad-core processors: four cores on a single die, whereas Intel's are an assembly of two dual-core chips.

That may be true, but it's also irrelevant. What matters is performance, and if Intel can deliver more productive quad-core CPUs than its dual-core range now while AMD waits until it can ship a 'native' product, it has the edge.

Ultimately, the CPU is a black box that gets work done. How it does so only matters as far as the performance it delivers relative to contemporaneously shipping rival products. In that sense, the 'native' vs 'non-native' is a red herring, until AMD takes its products to market and demonstrates its approach delivers the best performance at that time. ®

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