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What to make of AMD's Barcelona

Great expectations
Wed Aug 08 2007, 15:10
AMD'S BARCELONA chippery arrives this month. The firm showed off a processor or three in action recently but left what we deemed to be a few holes in its presentation.

Now, after much hassling from the INQ, it has filled some of those holes. Namely: “Will the processors work straight away?”; “What operating systems will support them?”; “Will any software platforms use them?” And “What's needed to get them up and running?”

In terms of current equipment, it's good to know the new processers will happily drop into existing architecture. These slots are currently occupied by AMD's dual-core processors, but will work with the quad-core chips after a bios update. As promised, AMD has stuck with the Rev F socket. An HP spokesperson confirmed the processors will joyfully work on its existing servers. HP is a major supporter and was first to market with the dual-cores. Expect new models soon from HP, with product numbers ending in a 5, come September.

But there's more to the picture than just processor, sockets and bios updates.

The slide below show's what's new in the Quad-cores, along with the technology and now the official names behind them. alt='amd_image'
Inside the Barcelona core

Here's the skinny on what needs to be done to get Barcelona working, as it's not as clear as it might have been.

The Independent Dynamic Core Technology is part of PowerNow! and does require a driver for the OS. At the time of going to press AMD hadn't confirmed if it needs to be downloaded from its website or whether it's built in. We were told it's a general rule of thumb that if it's an existing OS you'll need to download the driver, whereas if it's a yet-to-be-released OS it will be built in.

The AMD CoolCore Technology is built into the Barcelona chips and doesn't require a driver to function or operate.

Dual Dynamic Power Management will require a motherboard/platform that supports independent power delivery, but it doesn't affect software image. We were informed by AMD that they will release a list of motherboards/platforms supporting this feature at launch. Nothing has yet to been seen though.

The AMD Wide Floating Point Accelerator requires a re-compile of an application (ie. a new version) to be fully supported. So complete utilisation of this feature will require some effort to be laid out by a company, if it wishes to get its money's worth.

AMD have said the Memory Optimizer Technology requires no software changes, however the independent memory channel portion is controllable via BIOS setting.

The AMD Balanced Smart Cache requires no software or drivers, so it works straight out the box.

The slide below shows, so far, what AMD is prepared to release in terms what's needed for platform support on the PowerNow! Technology.

Power Management OS Support

Not the most complete list for servers, but it will suffice until a bigger picture emerges.

Barcelona Support - Linux

Coming to the world of Linux, you can see the list above of supported platforms from the matrix AMD provided us with. Draw your own conclusions, but to us it shows the firm is at least investing in support and R&D on the Linux front.

Barcelona Operating System Support

The slide above shows a better perspective of support on other platforms, although it looks like an older slide. As some details that might say “planned” may already be around at the time of launch.

The Rapid Virtualization Indexing in Barcelona requires Hypervisor/OS support; it's a much much larger subject as can be seen below.

Virtualisation Ecosystem Overview

Once again this slide may be dated now as, for one, ESX 3.0.2 has just hit the market. It does show the more detailed particulars concerning what's supported and what's not. Hopefully this gives a better idea of what to expect, plan for and the expectations of Barcelona. µ

See Also
AMD shows off 3.0GHz Barcelona
AMD delivers a codename blizzard
Snow arrives early in AMD's Sunnyvale
Phenom 3.0 demo surrounded by FUD


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