With their latest microprocessor launches, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. are crossing swords in the lucrative high end of server processors, angling to show technology leadership. But analysts and OEMs say it is still unclear whether Intel's Caneland or AMD's Barcelona has an edge over the other in performance and power.
For months, AMD has claimed Barcelona would help it regain technical leadership over archrival Intel because the AMD chip is the first from the two companies to put four X86 cores on a single die. However, analysts and OEMs say both companies have executed well on their CPUs.
"At this point, it would be too speculative to comment on who is the winner," said Nathan Brookwood, market watcher with Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.). "The ultimate winner is the end user, who is getting a lot more computing power for their money."
Major technology companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc. say both processors look good, but they still have weeks of system-level testing before they decide which chips will be used where in their server product lines.
"We're definitely using both," said David Simmons, a senior director of X86 product marketing at Sun (Santa Clara, Calif.). "There are a lot of variables. There's a fairly wide range of scenarios for application performance, so we are planning to have multiple offerings and good competition."
At separate events, Sun showed versions of a new four-socket 2U rack-mounted server and a four-socket card for a blade server using Caneland and Barcelona.
Because Caneland--officially, the Intel 7300--requires relatively power-hungry fully buffered DIMM memories, AMD (Sunnyvale, Calif.) may have an edge in performance per watt at the system level, said Brookwood. But Barcelona looks "a little weak in integer performance" despite solid floating-point marks, he said.
"We believe we will sustain our leadership in quad-core processor performance, even after AMD rolls out Bar- celona," said Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of Intel's server group, speaking last week at the Caneland launch. Intel (Santa Clara) claims the 7300 scored 407,079 on the TPC-C benchmark run on a Hewlett-Packard server. That's as much as 70 percent better performance than on previous benchmarks of the system using Intel's dual-core CPU, Bryant said.
AMD, meanwhile, claims Barcelona provides a 50 percent performance increase over its own dual-core chips. Compared with Intel's previous Xeon 5345 CPUs, AMD said, Barcelona delivers performance boosts of 7 to 70 percent, depending on the application. Spec benchmarks for Barcelona were not available at press time.