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Early release for AMD's Shanghai processor

AMD hopes to divert attention from Barcelona

AMD hopes its just-released 'Shanghai' Opteron quad-core processor will divert attention from its ill-fated Barcelona chip.

The early release of Shanghai - which AMD had initially planned to ship in 2009 - comes about a year after the company was forced to delay shipments of the quad-core Barcelona for six months because of a bug in its Transition Lookaside Buffer.

AMD said that at 2.7GHz, the new Opteron chip offers better performance than Barcelona, which has a top speed of 2.3GHz. The new chip also has 6MB of Level 3 cache, compared with 2MB in Barcelona, the company added.

The new 45-nanometre Opteron chip received a quick endorsement from IBM, which unveiled four Shanghai-based blade and rack-mounted servers designed to run high-performance applications and virtualisation environments.

IBM said one system is available now and the others will ship by early next year.

Brent Kerby, a senior product manager at AMD, said the new chip offers strong support of virtualisation. Compared with Barcelona, the Shanghai CPU takes 25 percent less time to shift control from one virtual machine to another, he said. Therefore, "the processor can spend more time processing the virtualised application than switching", Kerby added.

The chip also uses about 35 percent less power than Barcelona when it's idle, AMD said.

Martin Reynolds, an analyst at Gartner, said Shanghai is a nice addition to AMD's quad-core lineup and a promising competitor to Intel chips, but it's unlikely to turn the company's business around.

Shanghai "keeps the light burning for the next round of products - it's more of a maintenance product," Reynolds added.

Next up for AMD will be its six-core chip, code-named Istanbul, which is set for release late next year.

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