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AMD's Barcelona benchmarks are a'comin down

While virtualization code whimpers

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AMD's four-core Opteron saga continues with a trio of nasties concerning the chip reaching The Register.

First off, all of the SPEC benchmarks performed to date with Opteron-systems (Barcelona) will be pulled over the next week, El Reg can confirm. This is a result of AMD failing to meeting the "general availability" requirements for a product demanded by SPEC (the Standard Performance Evaluation Corp.). IBM last month started the benchmark ripping exercise by removing its SPEC scores for the Opteron-based System x 3455 server.

The general availability miss comes as a result of AMD's decision to ship four-core Opterons - aka Barcelonas - on a customer-by-customer basis due to a bug in the chip. AMD does have a fix for issue, but implementing the fix causes performance issues. AMD plans to fix the silicon in the first quarter of next year and will then make the four-core Opterons available en masse.

Speaking of performance issues, we've learned that virtualization software suffers from AMD's fix. The Register has received reports of virtualization software slowing by as much as 50 per cent.

We've also confirmed through various channels that it's virtualization code which, in fact, takes the biggest performance hit as a result of AMD's bug cure.

Luckily for AMD, not too many of the lucky Barcelona-holding customers are using the chips for virtualization workloads. AMD has primarily been feeding high performance computing customers, who are running specialized multi-threaded software across server clusters.

And we round out the woeful news threesome with word that AMD has adjusted the peak power consumption figures on 2.0GHz+ Opterons much higher. Company documents show AMD moving from TDP (thermal design power) levels of 68W, 95W and 120W for various flavors of its chips to 79W, 115W and 137W.

The power consumption rise comes as a result of AMD seeking faster performance with some versions of Opteron.

AMD has long maintained that TDP numbers are extreme and largely irrelevant to anyone but systems builders. The company prefers to focus on average power consumption figures, which have not changed. In addition, AMD insists that Intel uses average power figures and not max figures with its TDP numbers, although Intel denies this. Go figure.

Add all of this up, and you get a very bad week for AMD.

The company had once hoped to get Barcelona out possibly in the second quarter of this year. Instead, it won't ship in true volume until the first quarter of next year - fingers crossed. And, in the meantime, AMD gets to deal with a bug and a performance crimping fix at those sites that do have Barcelonas. ®

Register editor Ashlee Vance has just pumped out a new book that's a guide to Silicon Valley. The book starts with the electronics pioneers present in the Bay Area in the early 20th century and marches up to today's heavies. Want to know where Gordon Moore eats Chinese food, how unions affected the rise of microprocessors or how Fairchild Semiconductor got its start? This is the book for you - available at Amazon US here or in the UK here.

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