AMD is getting ready for the big Barcelona push next month, promising that its new quad-core Opterons will boost data center capacity and consolidate servers through hardware virtualization. What's more, the chip has been designed with the same power budget as the company's dual cores, providing all these enhancements with no hit on your electric bill.
There's no doubt that Barcelona will find its way to a wide variety of enterprise devices -- everything from laptops to desktops to servers if the partners at this week's presentation to analysts was any indication -- but whether they will be enough to bring back some of the momentum that AMD used to have against Intel is another matter. While side-by-side comparison against Intel quads is impressive, the fact that Intel is nearing the release of a four-socket processor capable of supporting 16 cores is a clear indication of who is still in the driver's seat here.
Still, AMD is not without an upgrade plan. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have a 65nm quad processor called Budapest, while the 45nm Shanghai device is due in 2008. The buzz on Shanghai is that it will offer 6 MB of L3 cache and a new design for improved IPC (Instructions per Clock). There's also talk of an eight-core processor called Sandtiger full of goodies like DDR3 memory and virtualized I/O memory management.
But aside from what's happening on the chips themselves, the chipmakers are making it easier to build applications that use the parallel nature of the multicores. Intel's approach is the Threading Building Blocks development library, which combines a small runtime (about 120 KB) with template libraries containing task scheduling, memory allocation, parallel algorithms and synchronization. These tools let you create applications without getting into the nitty-gritty of hand-written code.
Whether you're an AMD or Intel fan, new products from either firm should be a welcome sign. Whenever one makes a move forward, the other kicks into gear to either catch up or avoid being caught.