AMD 4core Opteron breaks cover (and huge holes)

Weird. It's Wednesday's IT Blogwatch: in which AMD launches its quad-core Opteron CPU for servers. Not to mention Seven amazing holes in the ground...

Patrick Thibodeau reports

On the same day that Advanced Micro Devices Inc. officially released its Barcelona server processor, the company said it would have a faster version of the quad-core Opteron device out by year's end ... The confirmation of the planned speed bump may have been the most significant bit of news out of the product launch, which was held at the Letterman Digital Arts Center on the grounds of the Presidio, a former U.S. Army base that now is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Executives from IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Dell Inc. appeared at AMD's launch event in person or via video to announce plans to add the Barcelona chip to their server product lines, with shipments scheduled to begin as early as next month. Among them was Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell, who said his company intends to double its lineup of AMD-based systems by year's end.

[Sun said it's] aiming to use the quad-core Opteron to double its AMD-based server business. However, Sun in January announced a deal with Intel to develop a full of line of Xeon-based servers and workstations. That ended a two-year-old strategy under which Sun had exclusively used Opterons in its x86 systems. [more]

Charlie Demerjian looks back in amazement:

When K8 was launched in 2003 ... vendors were hiding behind the curtain not wanting to be seen. I was there and can verify that first hand. On 2007, there was a bunch of vendors splashing their name all over the event, several showing AMD only product lines, Dell being the big one there. What a difference 1/25th of a century makes.
The 1 to 2 core transition was planned before day one, the historical roadmaps show that without a doubt. For 2 to 4 there were a lot of additional things that needed to be done to the core and uncore. You could have done it in two incremental steps, but AMD said its customers did not want that kind of churn. For the enterprise side, this is quite understandable, but for the desktop, it is a bit more questionable ... AMD also promised eight cores in 2009, something that was promised (link) for 2008 not all that long ago.
One difference between this launch and the K8 is that now AMD is in every market segment that Intel is in or at least in with x86 CPUs, there is top to bottom competition. This has lead to wins or customers, vendors, and just about everyone. AMD is now taken seriously in the corporate world, something that was not the case our years ago. [more]

Dell's Lionel Menchaca speaks directly:

I know that many of you who work with servers for a living are already familiar with AMD's quad core processor called Barcelona. For those that aren't, it's AMD's version of a quad core processor for servers, and it's based on their Opteron architecture.
Initially, we will support Barcelona as an option on our 1U PowerEdge SC1435, 2U PowerEdge 2970 amd 4U PowerEdge 6950 servers. In this vlog, Glenn reflects on how we've worked with AMD in the server space within the last year, what Barcelona means to our customers,and why it's an important part of our overall power and cooling strategy. [watch video]

Adena DeMonte, she say, "Yes": [You're fired -Ed.]

Here we go again. In the inexhaustible game of leapfrog between Silicon Valley chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Intel Corp (INTC), it’s AMD’s turn to jump. Today, after more than six months of delays, the Sunnyvale, Calif. underdog of the multiprocessor arch-rivalry finally announced the launch of its quad-core processor “Barcelona” chip. The release of the Quad Core Opteron chip series certainly has market share implications ... [but] we’re more interested in just how power-efficient AMD managed to make [it] ... When it comes to IT purchasing decisions, the power drainage of a chip is almost, if not equally, as important as processing speed.
An AMD spokesperson claims that the 75-Watt 2 GHz Barcelona processor, when compared to Intel’s 2.3 GHz Xeon processor, is on average 26 percent faster across a variety of server workloads, while managing to draw less power and require less cooling than Intel. In one given server workload test, AMD’s new processor proved to be “65 to 70 percent faster” while using “five less watts, on average,” of energy compared to Intel’s Xeon processor. That’s using AMD’s new energy consumption metrics, called ACP, or average CPU power, that includes more than just the processor cores when determining energy usage of the microprocessor [for example] Intel doesn’t have an integrated memory controller.
How does AMD reduce the energy usage of its chip? Having the quad-core processor on a single die, the company explains, allows the cores to “efficiently communicate and perform work without having to leave the processor package.” The chip’s technology also reduces energy consumption by allowing processors and cores to “operate at various voltages and and frequencies, depending on usage.” When a chip has four cores, if all of them are draining energy all the time, that’s a major energy waste. But if a chip can turn off unused parts of the processor, it will be more energy efficient. [more]

Ashlee Vance expands:

AMD has shifted to the average power measurement in the hopes of presenting "apples to apples" comparisons with Intel. AMD has tended to give maximum power consumption figures in the past - usually only attainable in the labs - and chastised Intel for giving average power consumption figures. In addition, Intel tends to leave out the power consumption issues it faces from things such as FB-DIMMs. (AMD will continue to provide the older measurements to OEMs that ask for the information.)

By the fourth quarter, AMD expects to ship low-voltage parts at 1.9GHz, standard chips beyond 2.0GHz and high-end chips that stretch up to 2.5GHz.

AMD, of course, also has a 45nm four-core follow-on to Barcelona called Shanghai set for 2008. Then the company should follow with a pair of octal core chips in 2009, according to Pat Patla, director of AMD's server and workstation business. So far, AMD has confirmed the latter chip as running on a new "Sandtiger" core but has yet to release a code-name for the earlier octal-core part. [more]

Scott Wasson has a new toy:

Somewhere around mid-morning this past Friday, a rather large package made its way into the depths of Damage Labs. Inside was a server containing something very special: a pair of AMD's new quad-core Opteron processors. The chip code-named "Barcelona" has been something of an enigma during its development, both because of questions about exactly when it would arrive and how it would perform when it did. After a long, hot weekend of non-stop testing, we have some answers to those questions.
Barcelona is a single-chip, native quad-core design. Each of those cores have been substantially revised to improve performance per clock cycle through a variety of tweaks, some big and some small. The cores now have a wider, 32-byte instruction fetch, and the floating-point units can execute 128-bit SSE operations in a single clock cycle (including the Supplemental SSE3 instructions Intel included in its Core-based Xeons). Accordingly, the Barcelona core has more bandwidth throughout in order to accommodate higher throughput—internally between units on the chip, between the L1 and L2 caches, and between the L2 cache and the north bridge/memory controller. AMD has also added an L3 cache ... AMD claims its mix of dedicated and shared caches can avoid contention problems that Intel's large, shared L2 might have.

Behind this L3 cache sits an improved memory controller, still integrated into the CPU as with previous Opterons. AMD claims this memory controller is better able to take advantage of the higher bandwidth offered by DDR2 memory thanks to a number of enhancements, including buffers that are between 2X and 4X the size of those in previous Opterons and an improved prefetch mechanism. Perhaps most notably, the new controller can access each 64-bit memory channel independently, reading from one while writing to another, instead of just treating dual memory channels as a single 128-bit device.
Keep reading to see exactly how the new Opterons compare to Intel's quad-core Xeons. [more]

Buffer overflow:

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And finally... Seven amazing holes in the ground

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You too can pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: {{wikibreak}}

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