AMD Offers a Quad-core Tease

The chip maker is offering analysts a look at its quad-core processor.

Advanced Micro Devices is offering a sneak peek at its upcoming quad-core processor.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., chip maker demonstrated its 65-nanometer quad-core processor Nov. 30 for analysts at a conference in Berkeley, Calif.

AMDs quad-core Opteron processor, which goes by the code name Barcelona, is not due out until the middle of 2007. The first Barcelona processors to roll out of the factory will be for two- to eight-socket servers and workstations.

On Nov. 14, Intel beat AMD to the punch by rolling out its own quad-core processors, which were also based on the 65-nm manufacturing process.

In the increasing rivalry between the two chip makers, AMD is pointing to its new processor as a "native" quad-core, with four x86 processing cores on a single piece of silicon. The company has criticized Intels quad-core offering as a less elegant version that ties two dual-core chips onto a piece of silicon.

"Our competition has opted to take a cheaper and faster route," said John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for AMDs Opteron processor.

For the past few months, AMD has continued to gain ground on Intels market share. Most recently, on Nov. 8, Dell announced that it would begin offering more AMD processors in its servers and PCs. In their quarterly server market reports released Nov. 22, research firms IDC and Gartner said AMD now owns about 20 percent of the space, although Intel still remains the leader by a considerable margin.

Among some of the enhancements, AMD is reported to have widened the SSE engine from 64 bits to 128 bits, which will reduce bottlenecks in instruction and data delivery. The new quad-core processor will also offer a Level 3 cache, which will be shared by the individual processing cores and will add to the L2 cache each one has.

Barcelona will also offer better DRAM (dynamic RAM) efficiency as well as enhanced virtualization technology and a more energy-efficient DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory support.

During the demonstration, AMD technicians took a server platform that was using the dual-core, DDR2-based Opteron processor, upgraded it to the quad-core processor and replaced the BIOS.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about AMDs Opteron processor and its place in the server market.

By keeping the DDR2 memory, the quad-core Opteron can give a better performance both per kilowatt, Fruehe said.

Although the quad-core technology will be offered for servers that range from two to eight sockets, Fruehe said the demonstration was carried out on a four-socket server that produced 16 cores on a single platform.

The other advantage of AMDs quad-core processor, according to Fruehe, is that engineers were able to build it with the companys 65-nm process—rather using than the current 90-nm process—which gives users more features on the chip, such as hardware-based virtualization, and better energy efficiency.

Fruehe declined to discuss a more firm launch date and said AMD would not be announcing a price for its quad-core technology for some time yet. However, he said other demonstrations are planned and those displays will delve deeper into Barcelonas thermal, power and performance capabilities.

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