January 23, 2007 2:02 PM PST

AMD: Go to 'Barcelona' over 'Clovertown'

When it comes to quad-core chips, good things come to those who wait, Advanced Micro Devices believes.

After years breathing AMD's dust, Intel beat its rival to the punch by releasing its quad-core Xeon 5300 "Clovertown" processor for servers in November. But AMD's "Barcelona" quad-core chip, due to arrive midway through 2007, will be a significant notch faster than the Clovertown chips expected to be on the market at that time, said Randy Allen, AMD's corporate vice president for server and workstation products.

"We expect across a wide variety of workloads for Barcelona to outperform Clovertown by 40 percent," Allen said. The quad-core chip also will outperform AMD's current dual-core Opterons on "floating point" mathematical calculations by a factor of 3.6 at the same clock rate, he said.

Trumpeting the performance of unreleased products is not a strategy unique to AMD. When launching the Xeon 5100 "Woodcrest," chip Intel said its chips would beat AMD's by at least 40 percent.

Having a quad-core product has helped restore Intel's fortunes, and not just by buffing the chipmaker's image, Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron said. "Early indications are that Clovertown is contributing a meaningful amount of business to Intel in a surprisingly short period of time," McCarron said. "It's not marketing fluff."

For its part, Intel points to Sun Microsystems' announcement on Monday that it would sell Intel-based servers, ending its reliance on AMD as its exclusive x86 server chip supplier. "We'll let our competitors talk the talk while we walk the walk," spokesman Bill Kircos said, adding that Intel will improve performance and energy efficiency compared to today's products.

In the third quarter of 2006, Intel's restored competitiveness helped Intel reclaim server processor market share lost to AMD. Mercury Research figures for the fourth quarter aren't yet available, but AMD warned earlier this month that its chip-selling prices were "significantly lower."

Clovertown "has allowed Intel to put some pricing pressure on AMD. Intel can tout a lower price per core, given that it's pricing much of the quad-core Xeon 5300 line the same as its dual-core Xeon 5100 chips," said Technology Business Research analyst John Spooner.

"AMD has to respond to that by offering lower Opteron prices to satisfy those customers who might look at switching between now and when Barcelona comes out," Spooner said. "Discussing Barcelona performance is another way to help stave off Intel for the time being."

AMD stands by its Barcelona engineering decisions, though, including its choice to build a single chip with four cores rather than employing Intel's dual-core, dual-chip package approach. AMD calls its approach "monolithic" or "native" quad-core.

Customers don't care whether chips are monolithic or combine separate processors, Allen said, but they do care about performance. "We came to the conclusion that, given the capabilities and performance with the monolithic design, it was clearly the right answer," Allen said.

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Barcelona, quad-core, Intel Xeon, Mercury Research, AMD

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Barcelona will not be competing with Clovertown
Throughout 2006 Intel managed to pull in just about every single product launch on their roadmap and with the recent announcement of their 45nm first silicon able to boot up 4 different operating systems there is no reason to believe that they are busy at work trying to pull in 2007 and 2008 product launches as well. It's one thing to compare Barcelona to current dual and quad core Intel CPUs but nothing is being said about comparisons to next generation 45nm Intel CPUs that should be arriving at the same time or soon after the Barcelona launch namely Wolfdale, Bloomfield, and Yorkfiled. Barcelona will have new technology and more cache but so will Intel's new 45nm CPUs - from 3MB L2 up to 12MB L2, up to 8 cores, new CSI high speed interconnect, and maybe even an integrated memory controller (although Intel's Core CPU architecture has already demonstrated superior memory performance compared to AMD's integrated memory controller on real world applications). Also, what is after Barcelona? HT 3.0, DDR3, Fuzion? <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/12/14/amd_questions_multi_core_trend/" target="_newWindow">http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/12/14/amd_questions_multi_core_trend/</a> It doesn't look like AMD has much compared to Intel's next 2 generations Nehalem and Gesher - not to mention all of the product shrinks and optimizations in between.
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