San Francisco (CA) – On September 10, AMD held its biggest ever launch event for Barcelona at The Presidio in San Francisco at 6:30pm PDT. On hand for the 1.5 hour event were several top executives and partners to AMD, all lending support for their native-quad core Opteron. Here is a brief summary of the event.
In the best tradition of similar product launches AMD chose to open its product introduction with a CGI video, titled “QC-64: Contains imagery of power, speed and virtualization.” It gave a visual demo of AMD’s history and prolificness. It was an opening which set the tone for what would come after.
First up was AMD’s CEO, Hector Ruiz. He wasted no time and got right to the heart: Ruiz spoke about the changes AMD has had over the past four years. And how the company first delivered on its promise of 64-bit x86 computing. He claimed that this one event changed forever the world of computing. He also thought back two years ago to the time when AMD released the first native dual-core CPU. And he compared Barcelona’s launch today with the next step in those two milestones. “Today we do it again. The industry’s first native quad-core process.”
AMD’s strengths have lied in their “perseverance with inspiration,” he said. The executive mentioned that Barcelona’s launch should raise expectations for what a customer should expect from a processor. He went on and made four specific claims that Barcelona was designed from the ground-up to win in performance, investment protection, virtualization capabilities and energy efficiency. According to Ruiz, Barcelona beats its competition “in all measures” of performance.
Next up was Rick McCallum of LucasFilm, an AMD partner. Rick spoke about the relationship LucasFilm has enjoyed with AMD. He also indicated that the reason they’ve had a five year relationship now was because they went to Intel first. And after much discussion, Intel’s answer apparently was that they “weren’t a service company” and turned them away. Rick said AMD stepped up and gave them the assistance they needed. Today, all of LucasFilm’s data centers use AMD processors. Rick also said Barcelona will be a key focal point of their future strategy which is scalability, energy efficiency and investment protection.
Randy Allen, AMD’s corporate VP of Server Products, was the main speaker of the event. He began by saying that it was “simply stunning” how much the role of the x86 system had changed in servers and data center over the past 20 years. They began performing only the most mundane tasks, but today they are computing the most complex and mission critical workloads. He also indicated that in the first five years of this decade, a data center’s power needs have doubled. He called it “the era of the mega data center.” As such, the push for virtualization and greater efficiency has become paramount, and that is where Barcelona comes in.
Allen indicated that today, energy cost concerns achieve greater priority than other factors, even staffing or location. He said “performance per watt is fast becoming the standard for energy efficiency.” Virtualization is key because customer’s want to extend their existing IT infrastructure to its maximum potential. And energy efficient, high-performance goals through hardware is where AMD has taken a leadership role. This evolution of the x86 is allowing data center managers to get the most out of their hardware. There were quite a few marketing bubbles in Allen’s speech – here is a taste: “In the real world, real workloads run best on the real deal. Barcelona.”
Next to hit the stage was Diane Greene, CEO and President of VMware. The focus of her brief presentation was the relationship VMware and AMD have enjoyed in bringing to fruition much of their hard work in virtualization spaces. Greene indicated that virtualization represents the “killer application” for the machine, and that quad-core Barcelonas enable much greater performance. They “amortize the memory, NICs and hard disks.” And technologies like AMD’s “nested paging” (Rapid Virtualization Indexing) have increased greatly the performance and efficiency. She also indicated how much she is looking forward to I/O virtualization and something she called “live migration to different processor models.” That one has us scratching our heads, though we will try to follow-up.
Microsoft, Novell, HP, IBM, Oracle
Steve Ballmer gave a pre-recorded message about Windows Server 2003 drivers available today. They provide for Barcelona’s advanced power management capabilities. He also indicated that their upcoming Windows Server 2008 will be the “most robust” they’ve ever offered, and that it’s been specifically tailored with AMD Opteron optimizations.
Novell’s President and CEO Ronald W. Hovsepian also gave a pre-recorded message, speaking about their strategic direction and AMD’s role in the server spaces. Virtualization, elegant, scalable and more efficient uses of computing resources were key.
HP’s VP of Marketing, Paul Miller, was personally on hand to speak of the “shared values in addressing customer’s needs, and in using innovation to address those needs.” HP spoke of the success of a 4-socket AMD-based server launched just a few years ago which has since become the world’s largest selling 4-socket server. Since then they’ve introduced a wide range of products and have enjoyed their relationship with AMD throughout. He spoke of the wide range of energy efficiency in design. It goes all the way from Wall Street to single-computer businesses.
Charles E. Phillips, president at Oracle, also spoke via pre-recorded message and discussed their relationship with AMD. By this time in the presentation, each company that was coming up to discuss their relationship with AMD and the advantages Barcelona offers were pretty much all conveying a common theme. There was some personal touting of products, software or industry unique traits. Still, the basic traits of Barcelona were affecting each company’s business and direction in particular ways were there in theme for each of them.
IBM’s Server SVP also gave a pre-recorded address speaking about a large number of products which will be based on Barcelona. Rod Adkins stated “collaboration is fundamental …[to] leading edge systems for market leadership.” AMD is a key component of their success, Adkins said.
Jonathan Schwartz, chief executive of Sun Microsystems, was one of the very few first-row executives who actually spoke on stage at the AMD presentation and not via pre-recorded message. His short presentation focused on the evolution of Sun to once again become a leading server vendor through a partnership with AMD. Once listed at #999 on the x86 server ranking, today Sun sits at #5. Schwartz said his company is aiming for #4 shortly and would like to eventually get to #3. The quad-core Opteron will be a critical component in Sun achieving this goal, he said.
Mark Jarvis, Dell’s chief marketing officer, was also present on site. He gave a very interesting address. It was one which, at this point in the presentation with all of the pre-recorded messages and technical pace, was very welcomed. He indicated that Dell sells 150,000 x86-based servers every single day. The decision Dell made 1.5 years ago to answer the market’s call, “we want AMD,” has proven to be very powerful for Dell. And today they are designing a system called Viso.
Viso is a dual quad-core machine designed from the ground up to deliver greater performance and power savings for virtualization applications. It delivers 40% greater performance over any other virtualization server machine out there, and does so with 25% less energy. They have also embedded a hypervisor right inside of the box. This allows not only for greater security while addressing one of Dell’s stated goals, that of being able to “run out of the box.” But Jarvis also indicated this embedded hypervisor allows out-of-the-box virtualization to be up and running in 2 minutes. A pre-recorded message from Michael Dell followed. Dell indicated that AMD is a big part of Dell’s success.
Last to hit the stage was Hector Ruiz again. He summed up AMD’s appreciation for all of their partners and the long-term strategy each of them has invested with AMD. He briefly mentioned future products such as Spider and Puma, which are only available because of the addition of ATI to the company.
He stressed AMD’s belief that that the quad-core Barcelona “represents a turning point for the computer industry” and the standard by which the industry will gauge other multi-core products as it addresses performance, investment protection, virtualization capabilities and energy efficiency in a single package.