Barcelona Heats up Server Chip Battle

With significant contribution from its India Design Center in Bangalore, AMD launched its delayed Barcelona chip for computer servers today.

Officially called the Quad-Core AMD Opteron Processor, the new chip intensifies the battle between AMD and rival Intel for dominance in the market for servers that underpin complex tasks such as managing corporate data centers or hosting web sites.

AMD’s new chip took over three years to develop and is the first native x86 quad-core processor on a single piece of silicon.

Intel, which already offers the quad-core Xeon processors, has taken the easier route with its quad-core processors by packaging together two dual-core processors.

Highlights of the quad-core AMD Opteron include power savings features, improved floating point performance and enhanced virtualization capabilities.

AMD’s CoolCore technology is supposed to cut energy consumption and heat generation by turning off unused parts of the processor while its Independent Dynamic Core Technology lets each core vary its clock frequency depending on specific performance requirement of the applications it’s supporting, helping to reduce power consumption.

The quad-core AMD chip is supposed to boost performance of virtualized applications by performing memory management in hardware itself instead of the previously required software intervention.

AMD executives say chip sets that support its existing line of dual-core Opteron processors will support the new quad-core chip as well.

The AMD processors released today have a maximum frequency of 2.0 gigahertz but the company plans to roll out faster processors later this year.

What debuted on Monday were the energy-efficient and standard performance versions of the processor. AMD’s promising the high performance version of the quad-core processor – with operating frequencies of 2.3 gigahertz and above – will come in December.

Pricing for the new processors start at $209 for the 2344HE 1.7 gigahertz and extends to $1019 for the 8350 2 gigahertz chip.

For AMD, the new processors are critical as it battles a resurgent Intel in the server market.

AMD also suffered a double whammy recently – a loss of $600 million in Q2 and the departure of some key senior executives including its sales chief.

Designed by engineers in AMD’s Bangalore, Austin and Sunnyvale teams, the quad-core Opteron will be manufactured in Dresden (Germany), tested in Singapore and assembled in Penang (Malaysia).

Several computer system vendors including HP, Sun, Dell, Egenera, Gateway, Rackable Systems, Appro, Supermicro and Verari are supporting the new AMD processor.

AMD’s quad-core Opteron processor is expected to be available for desktops in December this year. Quad-core desktop computers based on Intel processors are already being offered by major retailers such as Circuit City and CompUSA in the U.S.

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