Shanghai is set to erase "Barcelona" memories

The once gleaming AMD name was tarnished in many minds when the company launched its Barcelona CPUs. Barcelona was plagued from the start with poor performance and poor availability leading many to jump the AMD fence for the greener pastures offered by Intel.

AMD announced today that its Shanghai quad-core Opteron processors are now available. The new Shanghai platform is optimized for virtualization, live migration capability, and promises up to a 40% improvement in virtualization performance.

In addition to improved virtualization performance, AMD also says that the new 45nm Shanghai parts will deliver up to 35% more performance and up to a 35% decrease in power consumption at idle.

AMD senior vice president for Computing Solutions Group Randy Allen said in a statement, "Flawless execution in bringing the 45nm Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor to market early results in new performance leadership on x86 servers. In concert with our OEM and solution provider partners, AMD is addressing the need for enterprises to focus on their bottom line while giving them the innovations they need to build for the future.

“This enhanced AMD Opteron processor represents the most dramatic performance and performance-per-watt increases for AMD products since the introduction of the world’s first x86 dual-core processors by AMD nearly four years ago. Simply put, the Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor is the right technology at the right time.”

It's important to note that Shanghai isn’t a completely new architecture and is more a refresh of Barcelona, which was a 65nm CPU. Processors available today include 75-watt Shanghai parts running at clock speeds from 2.3GHz to 2.7GHz. All of the CPUs have a much larger 6MB L3 cache to support memory-intensive applications like Java and virtualization.

The chips support DDR2-800 memory, which AMD says is more energy efficient than fully buffered RAM. AMD also has enhancements to the AMD Direct Connect Architecture with coherent HyperTransport 3.0 technology in the pipeline for Q2 2009. The update will provide up to 17.6GB/s of bandwidth for processor-to-processor communications.

The new Shanghai parts that AMD launched today are not the last coming in the line. In Q1 2009 AMD will launch a 55-watt Opteron and a SE 105-watt part. Many sever makers will be offering servers using the new 75-watt Opteron parts starting today, one of which is HP.

HP's Paul Gottsegen, VP of marketing for Industry Standard Servers said in a statement, "Customers can drive down costs through new Shanghai-based HP ProLiant servers that set new levels of power efficiency and performance. HP has experienced unparalleled success over the past four years working with AMD in bringing AMD Opteron processor-based platforms to customers of all sizes. Early results indicate Shanghai is a winner."

CNET News reports that AMD also has a new desktop platform codenamed Dragon on the roadmap for Q1 2009. Dragon will use 45nm Shanghai desktop CPUs in conjunction with AMD 700 Series chipsets and ATI Radeon HD 4000 graphics. Whether or not the Shanghai-based Dragon platform can compete with Intel's new Core i7 X58 chipset duo remains to be seen, it's good to see AMD trying to mount a comeback. AMD is working hard to prevent another plagued launch like it executed for Barcelona.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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