AMD: First Barcelona systems set to ship in April

Exec says systems running quad-core chips will be rolled out by various vendors by mid-year

The first systems running Advanced Micro Device's new quad-core Barcelona chip are expected to hit the market in April, AMD executives said Tuesday.

Pushing the delayed processor out into the market will give the company a boost in what has been a lagging competition with rival Intel. Kevin Knox, vice president of AMD's commercial business, said that a series of hardware vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Dell, will be launching Barcelona-based servers between now and the end of the second quarter.

On Monday, HP announced that its largest x86 server yet -- the eight-socket ProLiant DL785 equipped with quad-core Barcelona chips will ship in May. With eight sockets and quad-core chips, that means the server will be running 32 cores.

"We're pretty excited about that because it opens us up to a market we hadn't played heavily in before," said Knox, acknowledging that Barcelona is four to six months late because of an errata - or bug - that was discovered in the chip's Transition Lookaside Buffer (TLB). "If you take a step back this was a problem we discovered in a high-stress environment inside our labs. [Delaying it] was the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do."

Knox said the problems with Barcelona ended up as a big learning experience for AMD - one that will benefit its work on upcoming processors.

"We've had a lot of learnings from what we went through with Barcelona," he added. "We learned things about stress testing and working to figure out problems earlier in the processes. It pointed us to potential areas where there could be issues. The errata was around TLBs and that has a big impact on virtualization. The B2 has given us pretty strong learnings. We're actually feeling pretty good with the learnings from B2 and we're on track with B3."

AMD was talking about Barcelona systems hitting the market the day after Intel announced in a St. Patrick's Day press briefing that its six-core Dunnington will ship in the second half of this year. Knox said since there isn't a lot of software geared to take full advantage of four-cores yet, he's not too worried about their rival coming out with six at this point.

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