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Quad-Core Barcelona Is Only A Start For AMD

The processor's sweet spot will be in four-way servers, and midrange two-way servers, but AMD will need to show increased performance for the price if it wants to add customers, analysts suggest.
Sales of Barcelona are expected to be strongest in the beginning among companies already using AMD dual-core processors in servers, Jim McGregor, analyst for In-Stat, said. That's because the company made sure that Barcelona could be plugged into the same socket, which means server manufacturers don't need to radically change the motherboard. "If you're already using AMD, then there's no reason not to go to quad core," he said.

Because the chip fits into the same platform as the dual-core model, companies can get a significant performance boost on many workloads at the same amount of power consumption, McGregor said. In addition, Barcelona, which has better virtualization features, could also make it possible to consolidate servers.

While AMD is a year behind Intel in shipping a quad-core processor, the company remains in the game because companies switch server platforms over years, not months. "If they had been out with Barcelona six months ago, then they would have been in a better position in the market," McGregor said. "But (the delay) doesn't freeze them out."

Long term, however, the financially troubled AMD will need to build Barcelona, as well as the desktop version code named Phenom, into a platform that attracts new customers. "For Barcelona to be a success, it's going to have to win some new sockets, and not just existing ones," McGregor said.

Also on September 10, AMD is expected to talk a lot about how AMD's new 10h architecture in Barcelona delivers a better price-to-performance ratio than Intel. Features contributing to the improvements in Barcelona include:

  • A move to 128-bit floating-point execution units in 10h from 64-bit FPUs. The wider design is expected to double the performance of floating-point vector operations;
  • A wider fetch window -- 32 bytes from 16 bytes. This is expected to allow the processor to handle a complete sequence of three large instructions per cycle;
  • Instruction-set improvements that include the addition of two advance bit-manipulation instructions, which operate on general-purpose registers;
  • And virtual machine optimizations in 10h to boost the performance of AMD's virtualization technology, as well as compiler-related optimizations.

Despite the new features and analysts' opinions, the final word on AMD's success or failure lies with its customers. And their verdict will be heard loud and clear over the coming months.