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Responding to competitive pressure from Intel and eager to cash in on a chunk of the $800 billion government stimulus package, AMD races to get its six-core Opteron chip out five months ahead of schedule.

The U.S. government has been very good to AMD in the past, using AMD’s 64-bit Opteron chip in many high-performance computing deployments funded from government sources. As legislators begin to spend the nearly $800 billion stimulus money on a variety of projects, vendors and solution providers are gearing up in preparation.

According to industry analysts, government agencies will spend stimulus dollars on new servers, health care technology and supercomputers, great news for solution providers with customers in large enterprises with growing data center needs, health care and high-performance computing. New industry spending will also increase; for example, the government plans to spend $2 billion for lithium-ion manufacturing plants.

AMD’s proposed six-core Opteron, code-named Istanbul, wasn’t expected for another five months, according to Nathan Brookwood, an industry analyst at Insight64. But with rival Intel announcing its Nehalem EX processor, AMD must hustle to keep up.

AMD says it will release Istanbul in June 2009, and believes Istanbul will keep them in the competitive running against Intel over the next year. The company believes that a proposed 12-core processor, code-named Magny-Cours, in 2010 will give them a major advantage, Brookwood says.

And that may be why Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said this week that it is releasing its six-core Opteron chip in June, well ahead of schedule, and plans to follow it early next year with a chip code-named Magny-Cours that will ship in eight- and 12-core models. After that, it plans a 16-core chip in 2011.

But at the same time AMD was announcing its new, aggressive schedule, Intel’s CTO Justin Rattner was already in Washington at an Intel-sponsored conference, selling his company’s chips.

"I think we see a number of opportunities, and what we are trying to do is raise awareness that this is an extremely auspicious moment," says Rattner, adding that Intel is fully aware of the government’s plan to spend a lot of money on technology and is poised to take advantage of such opportunities.

Though it’s still unclear how many federal dollars will go to technology, Rattner said Intel was especially interested in stimulus money aimed to further research into climate change using high-performance computing.