In the category of "news it didn't need," Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) confirmed that the full release of its first quad-core server processor will be delayed -- once again.
The company said that the Opteron chip -- also known by its codename of Barcelona --
has shipped to some customers in the high-performance market, but also said that the full-scale launch planned for this month has been delayed.
The chip was originally released in September, but technical problems have caused the current delay.
Hardware Fix Planned
According to The Tech Report, the Operton's hardware bugs also affect AMD's recently released triple-core Phenom 9500 and 9600 chips for desktops. The Report said that AMD knew about the problem before the Phenom product launch but the company indicated it was only an issue for Phenoms running at 2.4 GHz and higher. The publication also quoted an AMD manager who said the problem was not related to clock speed.
In particular, The Tech Report said that the problem is a "chip-level issue" that can cause system hangs during high use, such as during virtualization. It added that there is a software workaround, but that workaround reduces performance as much as 20 percent. A hardware fix is expected for the first quarter of next year.
The delay will mean that, by the time Barcelona is shipping in volume, it will be about a year since the chip was supposed to be launched.
In addition, the delay comes at a particularly bad time for the company. A year ago, AMD rose into the top-10 list of global chipmakers by market share, but the company fell off the list this year. Its semiconductor revenue was $7.5 billion in 2006 and is set to drop to $5.6 billion in 2007.
Delay 'Not Uncommon'
"Having a chip delayed is not uncommon," noted Mark Margevicius, a Research Director at Gartner. But AMD is "struggling to deal with a re-energized Intel," he said, which for the past year-and-a-half has been performing "exceptionally." AMD has had substantial success in differentiating itself in performance and design in the past, he noted, but, as these delays mount, Intel is "tick-tocking away."
Intel has described its strategy as being a "tick-tock" roadmap, which, like clockwork, delivers a new manufacturing process in one year followed by a new architecture the next.
The current "tick" is Intel's recently released Penryn family of processors, which is the industry's first 45-nanometer mainstream processor and uses the company's new high-k metal gate transistor technology. Intel already has demonstrated a 32-nm chip, which is expected for production in 2009.
The "tock" is the upcoming Nehalem processor, scheduled for the second half of 2008. It is the first processor from Intel to use its QuickPath Interconnect system architecture, with an integrated memory controller that promises improved communication between components. Nehalem is scheduled to have eight processors, but less expensive versions might be released with two cores.