AMD Says -Barcelona' Now Widely Available

The news comes as the chip maker prepares for layoffs and forecasts lower-than-expected first-quarter sales.

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Advanced Micro Devices' quad-core Opteron processor, better known as "Barcelona," is now widely available, with Hewlett-Packard and several other smaller vendors making the chip available in a number of systems.

The chip maker announced that the much maligned processor is now shipping in volume and has support from several of AMD's vendor partners, although most of the major OEMs have not officially announced new systems yet.

The April 9 announcement comes at a critical time for AMD as the company prepares to eliminate 10 percent of its 16,000-strong work force. The company also announced that its first-quarter sales this year were below expectations across all of divisions. The company is expected to announce its quarterly results April 17.

Although AMD announced its quad-core Opteron lineup in September, the chips were delayed by a design flaw that officials have described as a bug within the chip's translation-lookaside buffer. That caused problems when data was transferred between the Level 2 and Level 3 cache.

The processors that AMD is shipping now are dubbed "B3," which means the silicon has been fixed and these chips do not require a BIOS patch to ensure that the hardware will not shut down. AMD has also worked to increase the clock speed of the processors since they were first released. Now the chip maker is offering quad-core Opterons with speeds of 2.5GHz.

For now, the quad-cores are based on the company's 65-nanometer manufacturing process. Later this year, it plans to ramp up to 45-nanometers, which should give the chips an additional performance boost.

Since the release of Barcelona, HP has been the one major OEM to offer the chip. Last month, it announced the ProLiant DL785 G5, the first system to officially offer the quad-core processor. HP executives have said they plan to offer the chip across the company's line of x86 servers.

Smaller vendors, such as Super Micro, which offers two- and four-socket rack-mount and blade servers, have also given AMD a much needed boost. However, Barcelona systems from the other major vendors-Sun Microsystems, IBM and Dell-have not materialized.

Sun is using the quad-core processors with the supercomputer it built for the Texas Advanced Computer Computing Center, but it has not officially announced an enterprise system that uses the chip. The company did demonstrate a Sun Fire x4600 system using the Opteron chips at a Wall Street event in December.