AMD Goes on the Offensive

By eweek  |  Posted 2007-09-10 Print this article Print

Despite a casual, low-key demeanor, Hector Ruiz knows something about a fight. During the last several years, the chairman and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices has been the public face of the companys crusade against its main chip rival, Intel. Besides fighting for market share and technological superiority, AMD is also waging a high-stakes campaign in the courts with an antitrust suit against Intel. eWEEK Editorial Director Eric Lundquist and Staff Writer Scott Ferguson sat down with Ruiz in AMDs Austin, Texas, offices right before AMD was preparing to launch the much-anticipated four-core Opteron processors—code-named Barcelona. It hasnt been an easy road to Barcelona for AMD: Ruiz readily admits that there were technical problems, and the companys financial outlook did not ease the growing pressure to respond to Intel, which has managed to bounce back in the last year with its much improved Core architecture. And, just a few weeks before the new chip was ready to come to market, Henri Richard, AMDs chief marketing and sales officer as well as one of the companys main spokespeople, announced his resignation.
The big news coming out of AMD right now is the launch of Barcelona. What can you tell us about this processor and what it means for the company as you move forward with your enterprise offerings?
Barcelona is part of our strategy that began with Opteron to become a significant player in the enterprise. When you look back at the early Opteron days, it was our first attempt to create a product that was really, truly built around the needs of the enterprise, and, being able to look back and be objective, it was quite a hell of a product. AMD finally rolls out Barcelona. Click here to read more. It changed a lot of the rules of the game. A lot of people have forgotten because it was 2003 when we introduced that product, and the introduction of that product really changed a lot of peoples view of where the enterprise was going. On one hand, you had the extension of 64-bit to 32-bit with x86, and that was really a smart thing to do. In my view that was the beginning of the demise of [Intels] Itanium. Back in those days, [Opteron] still really had a strong presence, but it did a lot of other things, too. It created an architecture that was very efficient. At the same time we launched Opteron, we started working on Barcelona, which was the next step. The interim step that we took between Opteron and Barcelona was the dual-core introduction, which took the single-core Opteron and created a dual-core version of it, but all that time we were looking ahead to Barcelona. People had invested in software as well as ecosystem—the hardware ecosystem and, of course, the software ecosystem. One of the things that dual-core Opteron taught us about was how powerful that was because people were able to upgrade to dual-core Opteron rather easily. One of the things we are doing again with Barcelona is protecting the investment our customers had made for a long time. It is going to fit into the system, and its going to fit into the same thermal envelope, and, therefore, its going to have the opportunity for people to adopt it and use it at a much faster rate than they would otherwise. The other thing that Opteron did was begin to change peoples views of energy-efficient computing, which was critical. So we believe that, in terms of performance per watt, [Barcelona] will continue to set a strong leadership position for our customers. The other piece—again, we were looking ahead developing the Opteron family—was that virtualization was really going to become more and more significant over time. We put a lot of work into Barcelona to make it very efficient as a virtualization machine. I believe, and our customers are telling us, that in terms of performance relative to virtualization, it is going to be a phenomenal machine—very scalable and a lot of things that are very critical. Then when you come down to the last piece, we put a lot of effort into putting in a world-class floating point capability in this device, so it will have very strong raw performance. So we are very excited and champing at the bit to see Barcelona out there. What is the most significant technological advantage that Barcelona has over the dual-core Opteron besides the addition of two more cores to the silicon? That is a tough question. I really think that when we look at Opteron and then when we look at Barcelona, Barcelona is an improvement on all the things we just talked about. Page 2: AMD Goes on the Offensive


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