AMD Shoots Back at Intel with Server Chips as Dell, HP Announce Support

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

AMD is promising to beat competitor Intel on value when it comes to price and performance per watt with its new server chips. Acer, Dell and HP immediately announced systems based on AMD's new Opteron 6000 series.

Looking to beat Intel in performance per watt, Advanced Micro Devices has announced the availability of its most recent server platform, the first eight- and 12-core x86 processors for high-volume 2P and value 4P servers.

Server makers HP, Dell, Acer, Cray and SGI immediately announced support with new systems based on the new AMD Magny-Cours chips.

"It used to be that raw performance was all anyone cared about," John Fruehe, director of product marketing for the Server and Workstation Division at AMD, told Channel Insider. "Now it’s price/performance per watt. That puts AMD in a good position. We are going to deliver the best in the industry."

AMD’s announcement comes just a couple weeks after Intel announced its new line of Westmere EP Xeon processors, along with a host of OEM partners, at Intel’s recent Intel Solutions Summit.

"The process generation for these Opteron chips is actually the same as Intel's Nehalem-EX processors that are also just coming to market and that's the relevant comparison," said Gordon Haff, industry analyst with Illuminata.

"We'll have to see performance data to see exactly how AMD and Intel stack up in this generation but I expect them to be competitive," he said. "One difference is that Intel is emphasizing scalability with Nehalem-EX whereas AMD is emphasizing that it's not charging a premium for four sockets. Essentially, AMD is aiming for the seam between Intel's mass market two-socket processors and its scale-up Nehalem-EX."

AMD said its Opteron 6000 Series platform offers workload-specific performance, power efficiency and overall value while delivering more cores and more memory for less money.

The processors perform at up to two times the level of AMD’s previous six-core processors, the company said, including an 88 percent increase in integer performance and a 119 percent increase in floating-point performance.

Other features, according to AMD, include the following:

  • Enhanced integrated memory controller supporting four channels of DDR3 memory for up to a 2.5 times improvement in overall memory bandwidth.
  • 33 percent more memory channels per processor than competitive 2P solutions.
  • 50 percent higher DIMM capacity compared with previous generations, with up to 12 per processor, increasing the available memory overall and improving virtualization, database and HPC applications.
  • AMD 5600 Series chip set with I/O virtualization capability, HyperTransport 3.0 technology and PCI Express 2.0.
  • Pricing for 4P processors is now the same as for 2P processors, providing more value to the 4P space.
  • New power management features including a C1E power state to conserve energy when idle, the Advanced Platform Management Link allowing APML-enabled platforms to be remotely monitored for power and cooling, and AMD CoolSpeed technology, which automatically reduces p-states if a specified temperature limit is exceeded.

The new Opterons will deliver better performance to virtualized IT infrastructures, Fruehe noted. "One of the biggest uses for 4P these days is virtualization. Each virtual machine can be given its own dedicated core to run on. If you have more virtual cores than dedicated cores in the system, you are continually loading cores from the memory. This way you get better performance and scalability," he said.
Virtualization is widely expected to drive much of the server refresh forecast for 2010.

Fruehe said that while AMD’s new processors are 45-nanometer designs (and Intel has gone to the next process node, 32 nm), "from a performance standpoint they are being beaten on power and pricing."  

Fruehe said AMD will bring out its next-generation processor core, code-named Bulldozer, in 2011. It will be based on a 32-nm process technology and is being designed from the ground up. At the same time, it will fit directly into legacy sockets and will be completely backward compatible.

OEM partners immediately announced support for the new platform, including HP, which introduced three HP ProLiant G7 server platforms that the company said delivered a 23-1 consolidation ratio together with better power savings over previous generations. HP said the new servers will be part of the HP Converged Infrastructure portfolio, which integrates servers, storage, network devices and facility resources into a common environment.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com