AMD has begun shipping its delayed Barcelona chip in volume.

The company announced that the quad-core Opteron processor, which had been shipping in limited release to some vendors, became generally available today. AMD started shipping the quad-core server chips last September, but was forced to halt shipments when a bug was found.

While AMD was fixing the so-called Barcelona chip at the silicon level, rival Intel was busy pushing quad-core processors out the door, giving the company a market share and mind share boost over the beleaguered AMD. Industry analysts earlier this week blamed AMD's announcement of layoffs on the chip delay combined with Intel's successes and a sluggish US economy.

"I've lost a bit of faith in AMD," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "I was a huge fan when they [initially] came out with Opteron. If they can get their product out the door on time, with the performance that gets them back to leadership in the market, they could still be OK this year. The hard part is that they have to beat Intel at the game or they're going to be relegated to being the lower-performance, lower-price second choice."

Kishna Weaver, an Opteron product manager with AMD, said the company plans to quickly push out benchmarks for the Barcelona chip to ease concerns and meet expectations of users.

"Opteron has finally arrived," Weaver said. "If I could have had it last year, I would have loved to have had it. I think right now that customers are considering performance, power and value. Performance is a big piece of that one and you'll see [AMD] leadership in a number of benchmarks. But I do think customers are looking for a combination of things."

AMD noted that the new chip is already running HP's ProLiant DL585 G5 desktop and BL685c G5 computers. According to AMD, other hardware vendors will be following HP with Barcelona-powered servers later this quarter.