Thursday, December 6, 2007
Energy-Efficient Chip by A.M.D. delay again
AMD will be forced to delay the ramp of its Barcelona server processor after running into a bug, the company has confirmed.
Barcelona, AMD's first quad-core processor for servers, is shipping to some customers in the high-performance computing market. But the company had hoped to start shipping it to a wider variety of customers this month, as well as introduce a faster model that could better compete with Intel's latest Penryn chips.
The energy-efficient chip that Advanced Micro Devices was counting to win customers away from Intel has been delayed again, the company said yesterday.
The company confirmed that a technical irregularity has delayed widespread availability of its Barcelona chip for servers until early next year. The company had announced in September that it was beginning to ship it to customers.
Technical problems, called errata, are common during chip development, and both A.M.D. and Intel have been plagued by them at various times. The significance of this glitch — in rare instances, the chip could fail to function — has more to do with Barcelona’s further delay than with the glitch itself. The product was originally set for general availability in the middle of 2007.
“We’re continuing to ship it but only to specific customers,” said John Taylor, spokesman for A.M.D., which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif. As a result, many server manufacturers have not been able to sell the products they expected based on the new chip.
At the time of Barcelona’s release in September, A.M.D. executives described the processor as one of A.M.D.’s most significant new products in several years. A.M.D.’s first quad-core processor, Barcelona features four processors on one piece of silicon, allowing faster calculating and greater energy efficiency at companies running large data centers and server farms.
After months of delays, the new processor arrived as A.M.D. was struggling to maintain its hard-earned gains from Intel, its far larger rival, and just a week after Intel announced a new version of its own chip for servers, Xeon.
A.M.D. is offering Barcelona customers a workaround that allows them to use the chip until the errata are addressed in a new version of the product in January. The problem also affected the company’s Phenom processor, a desktop version of the chip, but A.M.D.’s workaround solution for that was issued before the product shipped, Mr. Taylor said.
Nathan Brookwood, a chip analyst with Insight64, said that it was not unusual for this kind of problem to appear and that he expected the impact on Barcelona customers to be minimal compared with past errata.
“The effect on customers using the patch will be they lose some performance,” Mr. Brookwood said. “But it won’t force A.M.D. to retrench.”
Dirk Meyer, president of A.M.D., hinted at a problem during a conference call with analysts in October, saying that initial production of Barcelona had been slower than expected. But he insisted that the product would be widely available by November. Company officials said yesterday that the scope of the problem had not become evident until after that call.