AMD Shows Off Barcelona Boxes in Taiwan
Published: June 5, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
It is already June, the beginning of the middle of 2007, when Advanced Micro Devices is expected to deliver its first quad-core Opteron processors, the "Barcelona" Rev F variants of those processors. But the middle of 2007 has a nasty habit of extending out to the end of the actual summer in the IT racket, and even if AMD does announce the Barcelona chips sometime in July, as expected, it is going to take August and September for vendors to get the processors qualified in their machines and shipping in volume.
So, in the meantime, AMD has to do what rival Intel had to do in early 2006, when its products did not meet market needs and it had some good stuff coming down the road. Which is: talk as much as it can. And so, AMD will be demonstrating a number of machines at the Computex computer show in Taipei, Taiwan, this week, using the Barcelona chip and talking up some of the features in the processor that will give it a technical edge over rival Core microprocessors from Intel.
The first feature, called Dual Dynamic Power Management, was actually highlighted back at the ISSCC chip show in February and is not new data. Basically, in the current dual-core Rev F and prior Opteron chips, there is a single power feed into the processor cores and memory controller embedded on the chip. The Barcelona design breaks this power feed into two--one for the cores, the other for memory circuits--which means that each can be quiesced independently from the other as workloads change. The Barcelona chips will also have a new feature called Cool Core, which allows unused components of the chip to be put to sleep (in an electrical sense). For example, a file server doesn't usually need to use a floating point co-processor, which just so happens to be one of the hottest areas (in terms of temperature) on a chip, so this can be turned off. Similarly, the memory controller only powers on read or write logic when it is doing a read or a write; in prior chips, these circuits were always on.
By better managing how power gets used by the chip, AMD can crank up the speed of certain components as it shuts down unused components, thereby delivering better performance per watt. The changes to power settings on the Barcelona chips can be done in a single clock cycle as workloads change.
"Performance per watt is what has people really excited," says Steve Demski, an Opteron product manager at AMD. Demski also confirmed that AMD was on track for a mid-2007 launch with partners shipping products based on Barcelona in the third quarter of 2007. All three types of Opterons--1000 series for single-socket machines, 2000 series for two-socket boxes, and 8000 series for servers with four or more sockets--are expected to ship after announcement. This is not a phased rollout, apparently.
At the Computex show, Taiwanese motherboard and server maker Tyan was showing off a two-socket, 2U rack-mounted server with two Barcelona chips that has eight DDR2 DIMM sockets per processor, for a maximum of 64 GB of main memory using 4 GB DIMMs. This box had two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two PCI-Express x16 slots, three PCI-X slots, and a single PCI slot. The Tyan Transport TA26 has room for eight SAS disks and an integrated LSI 1068E eight-port SAS disk controller that supports RAID 0 and 1 configurations. It is based on nVidia's nForce Pro 3600 chipset.
Uniwide Technologies, which hails from Korea, is showing a single-socket Barcelona box that has an interesting twist. Rather than use an Opteron 1000 series chip in this machine, Uniwide's UniServer 1512 uses an Opteron 2000 series processor. The reason why is that the Opteron 1000 series processors are limited to four DIMM slots per processor socket, while the 2000 series can have eight DIMMs per socket. This means the UniServer 1512 can have four cores and up to 32 GB of main memory using 4 GB DIMMs--twice as much main memory as other single-socket Opterons (so far). The odds are that customers will use 2 GB DIMMs, of course, because they are a lot cheaper--around $300 versus $900, in fact. So this four-core UniServer machine can have 8 GB of main memory with only half the slots populated, or can go to 16 GB with all of the slots populated. Given that a virtualized server tends to need more main memory to run efficiently, those extra memory slots will come in handy. The UniServer 1512 has room for two 3.5-inch SATA disks and has a single PCI-Express x16 slot for peripheral expansion. It is based on the MCPP55V chipset.
Super Micro, the American motherboard and server maker that just went public and has strong links to Taiwan, is demonstrating its AS-4021M-T2R+ server at Computex. This is a two-socket Barcelona box that comes in a 4U rack or tower configuration. This machine supports up to 16 DIMMs and has complete redundancy of all cooling and power components. Peripheral expansion and other feeds and speeds of this machine were not provided.
AMD Dashes Hopes on Revenue Projections for Q1
AMD Pushes Opteron Clocks to 3 GHz, Boasts of Benchmarks
AMD: Native Quad Core Opteron Will Best Intel Quasi Quads
Chip Makers Strut Their Stuff at ISSCC
Post this story to del.icio.us
Post this story to Digg
Post this story to Slashdot