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AMD: Lifting The Curtain On Quad-Core Barcelona

CEO Hector Ruiz touts performance-per-watt as the new gage of success in server processors.
Advanced Micro Device CEO Hector Ruiz is feeling a little cool under the collar these days. The Opteron server chip that he helped bring to market back in 2003 has matured into a low-power quad-core server processor that will publicly debut Monday at a media event in San Francisco.

The processor -- code named Barcelona for servers and Phenom FX for workstations -- is expected to be sold in vertical markets such as oil and gas, financial services, and high-performance server clustering.

Ruiz compares his latest 2-GHz Opteron designs -- ones that were delayed by a few months -- to Intel's Xeon 5345, which is a 2.33-GHz quad-core processor made up of two dual core chips. In addition to besting Intel on integer and floating point performance benchmarks, Ruiz said AMD will really show that Opteron is the better performer of the two processors where it counts: in performance-per-watt.

"People buy on peak performance, performance per watt, or performance per power," Ruiz said at a press event Monday. "We'll show a 26% performance benefit over their chip with Barcelona."

AMD has taken to quantifying that "performance per watt" for its own processors in terms of a metric that is more indicative of the power consumption that end-users can expect. Dubbed, Average CPU Power -- or ACP -- the power usage is benchmarked based on the number of processor cores, integrated memory controller, and HyperTransport technology links, that run a batch of typical workloads.

Ruiz said ACP will be useful for data center operators when estimating power budgets to size their data centers. AMD is introducing its Barcelona Opteron processors in 55- and 75-watt ACP metrics.

"When we look at Barcelona, ultimately, it won't be about the bits and bytes. It will be about the power," he said. "Our customers will attest to that. Barcelona doesn't get us back in the game [with Intel] it puts us in a leadership position."

That wasn't always the case. The difference between the first Opteron launch in 2003 and the one today, according to Ruiz, is that back then, hardware and software partners were less inclined to step forward and profess their faith in AMD's server processors.

"There were a number of partners back when we first launched Opteron, but not many of them were brave enough to come out in front of the curtain and exclusively support us," Ruiz said. "That will change with the Barcelona launch. This time there will be no curtain. Even our competition will have no place to hide."

The processor has already been tested by AMD's tier one partners such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and Dell, all of which are expected to stand next to Ruiz and AMD in support of its quad-core Opteron.