Liquid Computing puts support behind Barcelona

A Canadian server manufacturer says it is only a month away from announcing a customer in the local energy sector that will make use of the quad-core Opteron processor that Advanced Micro Devices launched Monday.

Liquid Computing, based in Ottawa, said it will be officially releasing a version of its LiquidIQ fabric server based on AMD’s ‘Barcelona’ processor later this week. The server is designed to offer managed services in virtualized IT environments and is also aimed at government and service provider markets, along with commercial enterprises. AMD announced nine versions of the Quad-Core Opteron, all manufactured using a 65-nm process, as opposed to the 90-nm process previously used for its server products.

Robert Saric, Liquid Computing’s director of marketing, said the company is already demonstrating a Barcelona-based board to an energy sector customer, which he declined to name. He said he expects the processor to offer significant floating point and integer improvement that will make companies more comfortable with using AMD-based machines.

“We’re hoping to leverage the fact that now we’re officially a quad-core house,” he said, adding that Liquid has standardized on AMD largely due to the energy efficiency of its products and its Hyper Transport technology. “One of the questions we always have to answer is, ‘Why are you not with Intel?”

John Fruehe, AMD’s worldwide business development manager for servers and workstations, told ComputerWorld Canada the company is in “very good shape” with all of its OEM partners and that he expects to see many of them “double down” in terms of the amount of AMD-based designs they bring to market.

“A big part of this is the investment protection: (Barcelona) fits in the exact same socket and thermal range. You literally could upgrade dual cores to quad cores . . . you’re not going to see a chipset change, you’re not going to see a new motherboard.”

AMD is counting on Barcelona, which fits in four cores on a single piece of silicon, to provide the company an advantage over Intel, whose quad-core products simply strap two cores together. That said, Fruehe acknowledged that most organizations will likely be focused on dual-core processor scenarios for at least the next couple of quarters.

“A lot of applications were designed for four-way servers with four processors because that was the best that people could hope for,” he said. “For customers that have highly threaded applications, they want more cores. It becomes more about the efficiency than the clock speeds.”

Saric agreed, adding that preparedness for quad-core systems can depend a lot on the vertical market.

“You’re trying to build on things that haven’t been built for high-performance systems,” he said. “That’s where it comes down to successful convergence, getting very efficient processors and a pool of resources and I/O that can work around that. In the service provider world, sometimes the application itself is much better and allows the infrastructure to take advantage of quad-cores. Then there are others where the apps are just grinding big parallel nodes.”

The 2GHz 8350 Quad-Core has a thermal design power (TDP) of 95 watts and is priced at US$1,019 in 1,000-unit quantities. The second Quad-Core Opteron designed for multi-chip servers is the 8347, which runs at 1.9GHz and has a 95-watt TDP and is priced at $786. All of the Quad-Core Opteron chips have 512K bytes of level two cache per processor core, and 2M bytes of level three cache shared by the four cores. Five versions of the Quad-Core Opteron will be available for servers with one or two processors.

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