AMD Unveils Quad-Core Microprocessors

AMD on Monday unveiled its new quad-core Opteron microprocessors, new chips that pack four microprocessor cores into a single package. The processors, which were codenamed Barcelona, are initially headed for the server market, but as with the company's previous generation dual-core chips, they will quickly migrate down to the desktop market as well.

"Today marks one of the great milestones in microprocessor achievements as AMD again raises expectations for industry-standard computing," said AMD chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz. "We've worked closely with our customers and partners to design a new generation of processing solutions embodied by today's Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor, a four-way winner in performance, energy efficiency, virtualization and investment protection."

For the time being, AMD stands somewhat alone in the quad-core world, with chip giant Intel lagging behind technologically, as was the case with the first dual-core designs from several years ago. Intel actually did ship its first four-way chips late last year, but these processors are technically inferior, as they are essentially just two dual-core chips welded together. Intel's first "true" quad-core design isn't expected until November.

Of course, some things have changed since AMD jumpstarted the CPU wars with the dual-core Opteron back in 2003: Intel today is ready for the AMD onslaught and has already mapped out its own competing product roadmap. Thus, Intel isn't as far behind as it was four years ago. And AMD's new chips arrived ten weeks later than expected, thanks to technical glitches, and are running at a lower clock speed than originally intended. While AMD demonstrated a 3 GHz quad-core chip earlier this year, the new designs currently top out at 2 GHz. AMD says it will bump clock speeds quickly, however.

Not surprisingly, AMD is focusing on the power consumption aspects of the chips, which are generally less power hungry than Intel's designs. Frankly, that will be enough to win some converts: Power consumption is one of the biggest datacenter issues today, and companies are now looking for greener alternatives than the hot and expensive chips that have typified server rooms for the past decade.

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