AMD Shanghai: We are back!
Analyst Opinion - Barcelona, which had been positioned as the product that would obliterate Intel in the server and workstation markets, went from a Weapon of Mass Destruction to Weapon of Self Destruction and came close to knocking out AMD for good.
Interestingly enough, it did result is a series of decisions, particularly the one to go fabless, which actually has provided at least the opportunity to outperform Intel at some future time. But that is what was and what may be For now, we are focused on Shanghai, AMD's latest CPU for the server and workstation markets – and this one looks very good.
It showed up timely, it has strong economy tied efficiency and virtualization capabilities, it appears to perform as well as promised, and can generally fit within the critical (for a data center) 75 watt envelope (with 55 watt high efficiency and 105 watt high performance parts due shortly).
While too early for third party tests to be done yet and I'm a big fan of third party testing, AMD is reporting significant power savings with this new Shanghai part over Barcelona. They are estimating up to 21% energy savings over Barcelona on normal loads and up to 35% while the system is idle. Because energy also relates to heat, this suggests a substantial savings in total operating energy cost over their previous generation, and in the current cost and energy conscious market this should be very important.
They get this savings by being better able to dynamically shut down or idle cores that aren't needed, through improvements in reducing heat output, by being able to better manage the resulting system's power needs more dynamically, and by shifting to more efficient DDR2 memory.
AMD has implemented a floating point accelerator to increase computational performance, a memory optimizer to improve memory performance, and increased the intelligence of their caching capability, increased the cache by 2X to 8 MB over Barcelona, and enhanced the pre-fetching capability of the part. In addition, they have upped the clock speed to 2.7 GHz and are now using smaller, faster, 45 nm cores and estimating a 35% performance increase over Barcelona as a result.
In general, this is simply a better balanced part overall than Barcelona is and it appears that the performance advantage may have as much to do with better tuning and technology maturity than any one of the other technology improvements.
Live migration advantage
One of the aspects of this product that should stand out sharply is the ability to do live migrations of virtualized environments between heterogeneous (read Intel) platforms. The reason buyers need to do this is because big corporate shops are generally running with limited resources and need to dynamically shift loads between systems that are underutilized and those that are approaching over-capacity, avoid a system failure, or do preventative maintenance (assuming anyone has time to do preventative maintenance these days).
Server environments are typically mixed and being locked into only being able to do homogeneous migrations of virtual systems too limiting for most so this should be a significant advantage.
The big news here is the product appears to meet or exceed expectations, actually showed up before it was initially promised, and is a strong representation that AMD is back in the game and playing hard again. Competition is good and while Intel continues to execute exceptionally well, AMD has upped its game and now we are back to having real choices. I'm a big fan of real choices.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies.