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AMD finally goes native with Barcelona

Preps pair of Octals

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Entire computing platforms have come and gone* in the time that it has taken AMD to shove the four-core version of Opteron known as Barcelona into end customers' hands.

AMD today will hold events in Spain and San Francisco to celebrate the release of its latest server chip. The Barcelona part - meant to arrive about six months ago - will go up against Intel's long-shipping four-core Xeon chips and handle beefy server software jobs. Sadly, the product will do so initially at speeds well below AMD's original expectations.

You'll find a wide variety of Opterons available, stretching from 2.0GHz standard to 1.8GHz low voltage parts. The highest end 2.0GHz chip (8350) consumes 75W on average and comes in at $1019 in volume purchases. Meanwhile, the 1.8GHz chip that eats up 55W (8346 HE) comes in at $698.

AMD has shifted to the average power measurement in the hopes of presenting "apples to apples" comparisons with Intel. AMD has tended to give maximum power consumption figures in the past - usually only attainable in the labs - and chastised Intel for giving average power consumption figures. In addition, Intel tends to leave out the power consumption issues it faces from things such as FB-DIMMs. (AMD will continue to provide the older measurements to OEMs that ask for the information.)

By the fourth quarter, AMD expects to ship low-voltage parts at 1.9GHz, standard chips beyond 2.0GHz and high-end chips that stretch up to 2.5GHz.

AMD, of course, also has a 45nm four-core follow-on to Barcelona called Shanghai set for 2008. Then the company should follow with a pair of octal core chips in 2009, according to Pat Patla, director of AMD's server and workstation business. So far, AMD has confirmed the latter chip as running on a new "Sandtiger" core but has yet to release a code-name for the earlier octal-core part.

"Yeah, you will most likely see that," Patla said, when asked about the two octal core parts in 2009.

As is typical, AMD found a number of benchmarks where Barcelona-based systems beat out Xeon-based boxes by significant margins. Intel has long countered with similar benchmarks of its own.

The vendors remain locked in a tit-for-tat struggle dominated by whichever company has put out the freshest silicon. Overall, this is a positive turn of events for x86 server customers, who are enjoying price, feature and performance gains.

Interested parties can find everything they've ever wanted to know about Barcelona here. ®

*The answer to today's trivia question is Palm's Foleo.

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