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Interview: AMD exec opens up on Barcelona

Kevin Knox spills the beans about quad-core chip

AMD is getting ready to launch Barcelona, its first quad-core server chip.

A successful Barcelona launch, expected to happen during the third quarter, is critical for AMD, which has seen its share of the server market battered in recent quarters by Intel. Those market-share losses came with a heavy price, dragging AMD's finances into the red. In April, the company announced a $611m loss, largely attributed to tougher competition and a price war with Intel.

To stem these losses, AMD has cut discretionary spending but executives are counting on Barcelona to restore its financial health and turn the tables on its archrival.

Kevin Knox, the vice president of AMD's commercial business, recently sat down with PC Advisor’s partner – the IDG News Service - to discuss preparations for Barcelona's upcoming launch. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

IDGNS: Where do things currently stand with Barcelona?

Kevin Knox: We're still on target for a mid-year launch with Barcelona. We're actually pretty excited about the product, particularly with respect to some of the features that we're going to enable. When we started out with Barcelona it had a certain feature set. From the time we started out, from the design perspective, the aspects we're going to address, things like virtualisation and power, have become more important to the industry. We think its going to have a bigger impact than we originally anticipated.

IDGNS: Is Barcelona going to reverse AMD's recent losses in server market share?

Knox: I firmly believe it will. A lot of that has to do with this not being just a speed upgrade. If it was just a speed upgrade, it's a lot more challenging at any point in time to get an advantage and maintain that advantage.

Barcelona is not just a quad-core chip, it's more than quad core. We've made fundamental, significant changes to the architecture as part of the chip. We looked at the overall design, at the cache and the pipelines, so it's a lot more than just taking two dual-core chips and saying it's quad core. It's a true, native quad-core design with enhancements at the processor level.

IDGNS: How do you view comparisons between Barcelona and Intel's quad-core server chips?

Knox: If you look at the two products, they're very different products. If you go back many years, when we designed Opteron, Opteron was designed for multi-chip, multi-core environments. When we went from single core to dual core, it wasn't a big thing for us. When we went from dual core to quad core, the reason this has taken a little longer is we made some enhancements to the core, not because going to four cores was the major challenge. What we've focused on is doing enhancements to the core and doing virtualisation.

This is probably a larger and more important launch than you've seen in the past. There's a lot riding on the ecosystem, the ISVs, and hardware vendors, to make sure we have all the pieces in a line so when we do launch we can have pretty quick uptake.


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