AMD Barcelona premiere brings out the stars

Co-stars at AMD event play dual role with Intel

Hollywood draws Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicholson or George Clooney to its premieres. Monday night, Silicon Valley brought out Hector Ruiz, Michael Dell and Steve Ballmer.

The launch event for Advanced Micro Devices' new Quad-Core Opteron processor, also known as Barcelona, mimicked a Hollywood premiere, as Chewbacca, Darth Vader and a platoon of Storm Troopers greeted visitors to a theater at the Lucasfilm studios in San Francisco.

Lucasfilm created the Star Wars films and, through its special effects subsidiary Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the cinematic worlds of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Harry Potter" and "Titanic." Last night it opened its doors to AMD, whose processors power the Lucasfilm data centers.

Lucasfilm is like Bank of America or Blue Cross in that it has technology needs in its data centers, said Rick McCallum, executive producer of three of the Star Wars movies. "We're not unlike a lot of companies, although there's a statue of Yoda out front," he said.

But Bank of America doesn't use its computers to make it seem like trucks have turned into deadly weapons destroying a city. VMware CEO Diane Greene had to follow an extended clip of the ILM-created film "Transformers."

"I just realized what a boring thing this virtualization is," Greene said.

She was followed by testimonials from Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, Dell Chief Marketing Officer Mark Jarvis and HP Vice President Paul Miller. Others, like actors who couldn't attend the Oscars in person, appeared via video, including Oracle President Charles Phillips, Dell CEO and Chairman Michael Dell and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Interestingly, those same companies could appear at an event for Intel and sing some of the same praises about its processors as they sang Monday night about AMD's. Namely, better performance, energy efficient, and optimized for virtualization.

In fact, they have. Representatives of Sun, HP, IBM, Dell and VMware last week met with Intel to tell reporters in San Francisco how they were planning to make servers running Intel's newly released Quad-Core Xeon 7300. This week, they're making servers with Barcelona.

"It makes you realize what a small industry this is," said an IDC analyst at an after-premiere party.

Just like Hollywood.

Likewise AMD's corporate history reads like an overnight Hollywood sensation that soon became box office poison. The company lost US$1.79 billion (AU$2.13 billion) over the last three quarters battling Intel in a price war -- after beating Intel to the market earlier with the first dual-core processor. But Hector Ruiz, CEO of AMD, sees Barcelona as his company's comeback kid, and likened the chips AMD makes to the movies Lucasfilm makes: "It takes what exists in the imagination and turns it into reality."

AMD Corporate Vice President Randy Allen presented benchmark results that showed Barcelona improved server performance by an average of 62 percent compared with AMD's dual-core Opteron and an average of 26 percent better than Intel's Quad-Core Xeon 5345.

"For our competition, the hard work lies ahead," Allen said.

Intel declared the same day that its current quarter revenues could reach close to US$9.8 billion, a 10 percent increase over their previous outlook.

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