AMD Sets 'Barcelona' Quad-Core Opteron Launch for August
Published: July 12, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Well, the wait is almost over for Advanced Micro Devices and the partners and customers who have been waiting to get servers and workstations that use AMD's quad-core "Barcelona" Opteron processors.
After we went to press with the last issue of this newsletter, which took a hiatus for the July 4th holiday in America last week, AMD put out a statement saying that it would get the quad-core Barcelona processors out of its chip fabs in August and that it expected platform partners to begin shipping machines using the processors beginning in September. The company also said in its statement that the initial Barcelona chips would clock in at a maximum of 2 GHz in standard parts and that Special Edition (SE) parts with higher clock speeds and Highly Efficient (HE) parts running at lower voltages as a slightly lower clock speed would also come out. The word on the street is that the Barcelona Opteron HE parts will have a 1.9 GHz clock speed; no word yet on how far AMD can push the Barcelona SE parts.
The Barcelona chips are designed to operate in the same thermal envelopes as the current dual-core "Santa Rosa" Opteron Rev F processors, which means a thermal design point (TDP) of 68 watts for an HE part, 95 watts for the standard parts, and 120 watts for the SE parts. As has been the case since the Opterons and their related siblings (the Athlons for desktops and the Turions for laptops), these TDP ratings are based on maximum energy usage and heat dissipation stressing all of the transistors on the chip and include the on-chip memory controller, which can burn as much as 20 watts. Intel's Pentium and Xeon chips from days gone by as well as the new Core laptop and desktop chips and the related Xeon chips do not have integrated main memory controllers, so you have to be careful comparing TDPs.
That said, Intel is rumored to be readying a quad-core "Clovertown" Xeon 5300 for delivery in August, timed to cause AMD grief. This future Clovertown chip runs at a lower voltage than regular Clovertowns, delivers a 2 GHz clock speed, and has a 50-watt TDP. If you toss in a memory controller's heat, then this chip will more or less match the TDP of the forthcoming Barcelona HE chip--and will very likely deliver almost the same performance. The Clovertown chips are actually two dual-core "Woodcrest" Xeon 5100 series processors integrated into a single chip package; the Barcelona Opterons actually put four Opteron cores on a single chip die. Both are implemented in 65 nanometer chip technologies. AMD will be bragging that it has the first "native" quad-core X64 chip, but the quasi-quad nature of the Clovertowns has not stopped sales one tiny bit. It is a difference that may not make much of a difference for a lot of workloads.
AMD says that it will scale the frequencies of the Barcelona chips in the standard and SE flavors in the fourth quarter, which it will have to do to compete against Intel. The company was a bit vague about Barcelona's performance, saying that on certain database applications (which like multiple threads), customers could see a 70 percent performance increase compared to dual-core Rev F chips and up to 40 percent on floating point applications.
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