New AMD Opterons debut

The unveiling of a new line of dual core Opteron processors from AMD Inc. has been greeted with delight by an Edmonton system builder that specializes in constructing servers from the upstart chipmaker’s CPUs.

“We’re quite excited by this,” said Maurice Hilarius, president of Hard Data Ltd. “AMD has delayed this a couple of times. We were totally relieved when they finally announced them.”

All CPUs in the new line will have the same architecture, include virtualization technology, have built-in internal memory controllers and use what the company says is energy-efficient DDR2 memory.

They are distinguished from the previous generation of Opterons by four-digit model numbers: The 1000-series processors are for single-system CPUs and use an AM2 socket, while the 2000-series for dual CPU servers and the 8000-series for four or more processors use a new Socket F.

They will be offered in three versions: standard power, low power (HE) and high performance (SE).

Hilarius said the more powerful DDR2 memory will allow development of memory-intensive applications, while the Socket F connection will pave the way for AMD to bring out its first quad core CPUs next year.

At the same time as it announced the new Opterons, AMD said it had finished final design of the quad core CPUs. Intel will beat AMD in that race: its quad core processors are expected to be out by the end of this year.

However, speed in that race may not be vital, suggested Dean McCarron, principal at Mercury Research, a chip industry analyst. The market for multiprocessor systems, including multiple core servers, is about 10 per cent of the total market, he said in an interview.

As advanced technology, quad core CPUs will also likely command a premium price, McCarron added.

As a result, quad core CPU servers will likely remain a niche market in 2007 and several years after that, until their price is forced down.

John Fruehe, AMD’s worldwide marketing manager for servers, said the new line “puts us in a much better position (than Intel) from a power perspective.

He predicted both chipmakers will engage in a battle of benchmark test results, “but with customer applications and data I think Opteron will come out on top.”

Shared architecture
He emphasized that the new Opteron family members – including the upcoming quad core CPUs – will all share the same architecture. By contrast, he said, Intel offers as many as a dozen platforms with different features and functionality, meaning some applications may need to be recompiled when running in mixed Intel server environments. But VARs and system builders can promise users that the new Opteron servers can mix CPUs without such problems, he said.

McCarron said technically AMD is right, buy it isn’t much of a difficulty. Most operating systems automatically accommodate different server platforms, he said, although Intel customers with applications needing 64-bit extensions have to be careful.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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