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AMD Gives Test Center a Boost

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AMD Monday announced improvements to its test center for evaluating dual- and quad-core processors.

The chipmaker announced improvements to its test center, third-party tools and virtualization specs.

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The AMD Developer Center, located in the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif. offices, includes a test bed for the new quad-core Opteron processor, code-named “Barcelona.”

Later this quarter, AMD will offer customers and partners access to fully configured dual- and quad-core Opteron clusters and servers to develop, test and optimize applications.

AMD is also working with software tools vendors and the open source software community to deliver compilers and other developer tools to optimize applications for the new Barcelona processor. The latest releases from the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) and The Portland Group (PGI) are already optimized for Barcelona processors.

AMD is also working with Microsoft and Sun ensure their popular development tools, Microsoft Visual Studio and Sun Studio, will support code optimization.

Barcelona processors, which the company intends as the chips to give Intel a run in the competitive market, will sport a 128-bit floating point engine, ostensibly doubling the 64-bit floating point in current Opteron chips.

“Barcelona is a lot more than four cores. By recompiling your code, you can have the option so you can get enhanced floating point capability,” Margaret Lewis, AMD director of commercial solutions. told

AMD also updated its AMD Virtualization Technology (AMD-V) and the AMD I/O Virtualization Technology (IOMMU) specifications to improve throughput and scalability in virtualized environments.

The latest revisions, 1.20, add support for AMD’s I/O Memory Management Unit (IOMMU) to provide secure performance in a virtualized environment. The new version of the spec also offers better isolation between virtual machines and is better able to protect a virtual machine from reading/writing to memory it doesn’t own.

AMD also added the ability to add direct device assignment, so a specific device can be assigned to specific virtual machines. This will greatly improve the performance of those devices in certain applications. It also comes with new technologies for interrupt remapping and enhanced error recovery.

Tim Mueting, a virtualization expert for AMD, said the company worked with Microsoft and HP on developing the specification. He expects availability of the new 1.20 chipset in late 2008.

AMD’s overall aim is greater protection of the hardware in hardware, rather than using software-based protections.

“A lot of what we do in virtualization is simplifying what’s being done in software,” Mueting said. “Obviously VMware has a great product and has been working at it a long time, but in retrospect, doing all of that in software does have its overhead. What we’re attempting to do is simplify that process and therefore provide better security as well.”

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