AMD, which struggled to correct the problems associated with its quad-core Opteron processors known as Barcelona, is now starting to ship its new 45-nanometer Shanghai processor to partners. In interviews, AMD executives say it was important to get Shanghai into the hands of its partners early to avoid the errors that crippled the launch of Barcelona in 2007. Some of the first Shanghai-based servers should hit the market by late 2008 and will challenge the latest Intel processors, according to AMD.
Advanced Micro Devices,
looking to shed the problems
associated with the rollout of its quad-core Opteron processor in 2007,
begun shipping its new chip-the 45-nanometer "Shanghai"
microprocessor-to its OEM partners for an anticipated launch later in 2008.
In an interview, Pat Patla, the general manager of AMD's
Server and Workstation group, said the company has learned its lessons from the
failed rollout of the 65-nm, quad-core Opteron-formerly "Barcelona"-and
is making amends with Shanghai. By the end of the fourth quarter of 2008, Patla
said some of AMD's OEM partners will have new multisocket server systems ready
to ship to customers.
AMD executives said they originally
planned to bring the chip to market in the first half of 2009.
While Shanghai will feature a
number of improvements, including what Patla called an overall 35 percent
performance boost compared with the 65-nm chips, AMD
has also gone out its way to ensure a much smoother rollout. This included
getting the first of these chips into the hands of OEMs for testing and
validation and making sure that the Shanghai project had one lead engineer for research and development-in this case,
really learned from the engineering effort of Barcelona
moving into Shanghai
to make sure we never had the same kind of engineering challenges with bringing
a product to market," Patla told eWEEK. "It was pretty well
documented what went wrong with Barcelona and the engineering team from
Shanghai really made sure that flawless execution was going to be one of the
design goals for the Shanghai product."
While AMD's efforts to improve the
processor's architecture and its rollout are important for the company as a
whole, especially as it looks to regain its financial footing, the attention to
detail is also meant to reassure customers who are looking at possibly buying
Shanghai-based systems later in 2008 and have lingering concerns about AMD's
ability to deliver a solid piece of silicon.
At the same time, AMD needs ensure a
smooth Shanghai debut since Intel
has already brought its six-core Xeon processor into the market
chip and chip set will compete against Opteron in the high-end, multisocket
server space. Intel will also bring out the first of its
processors based on the "Nehalem" microarchitecture
later in 2008
and AMD will look to compete against those
processors as well.
"I think this particular processor is being awaited by a lot of
customers," said John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business
"For what is likely going to be the same amount of money, you are going
to get a performance gain, there will be improvement in power consumption
because of the process transition and there are customers who really like the AMD
architecture," Spooner added. "Then, when Nehalem arrives on the
scene, how this chip performs against that will be the headline and then
customers will weigh the two technologies, especially if they are facing a
thinner IT budget and if one platform can prove it's more efficient than the
When the 45-nm Shanghai
processor does come to market later in 2008, Patla said he expects AMD
to compete against Intel in the two-, four- and eight-socket server space.
Later, AMD plans to bring out a chip for the
volume single-socket server space called "Suzuka." Following that, AMD
will offer a new server platform called "Fiorano"
in the second
half of 2009.
AMD has previously said Shanghai
will use four processing cores and contain 6MB of Level 3 cache compared with
the 2MB of L3 cache in the company's current crop of quad-core Opteron
processors, which should add to the overall performance boost. While Patla and AMD
would not discuss specific clock speed improvements with the 45-nm lineup, Shanghai
is expected to deliver a boost of at least 20 percent, which should get the
clock speed closer to the 3.0GHz promised with the original quad-core Opteron
In addition to the performance boost and 35 percent reduction of power
consumption compared with the 65-nm Opteron processors, some of the Shanghai
processors are expected to support AMD's
HyperTransport 3 technology, although that depends on what type of system the
processor is used in.
Within Shanghai's instructional set,
said AMD added a feature to enhance virtualization called a world switch
This technology will allow the system to access larger memory
pages for virtual machines, which is important as the memory systems of
high-end systems continue to increase to support more and more virtual
environments. This virtualization enhancement also allows the system to switch
between different virtual machines and take advantage of larger and faster
Something AMD also has in its favor is
that the Shanghai chips will be
compatible with the current group of Opteron chips. With BIOS update, users can
upgrade their systems fairly easily, which should help AMD
move the products into the marketplace.
As the Shanghai processor goes into full production, the chip will be
manufactured in volume at the company's Fab 36 facility in Dresden, Germany.