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Processor maker AMD is offering a discount of up to 30 percent to solution builder channel partners and customers upgrading AMD Opteron server processors.

By upgrading just the server processor instead of the entire server, reseller partners can help their end-customers gain significant performance improvement while at the same time saving money during a budget-strapped year.  Opteron was designed with this kind of processor swap in mind, and the swap takes less than 5 minutes, according to AMD.

Now AMD’s new discounts, which range from 10 to 30 percent, make the prospect even more attractive.

AMD’s announcement of the Opteron upgrade discount comes a little more than a week after Intel rolled out its new Xeon 5500 server processor based on the Nehalem chip technology, winning support announcements from all the major server vendors including Dell, HP and IBM.

“AMD’s discount announcement is at least partially in response to the Intel Nehalem introduction,” says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund IT. “But it also highlights the flexibility of Opteron systems, which are designed for upgrading in place—that is, to receive the performance boost offered by a new processor without replacing the rest of the server. That offers terrific value for end users, and helps drive additional business for those who perform the upgrades.”

AMD’s new Opteron discounts are available to customers upgrading from a range of AMD Opteron processors to AMD’s 65nm quad core Barcelona Opteron processor and AMD’s 45nm quad core Shanghai Opteron processor. In addition, the discount will be available for AMD’s forthcoming 45nm 6-core Istanbul Opteron processor. All these processors are backwards compatible because they are part of the socket-F family.

By just upgrading the processor, customers stand to spend only 25 percent of what they would have spent if they had invested in a whole new server, says Burke Banda, business development manager for North America of the Opteron Business Unit at AMD. Opteron processors range in price from $130 to close to $2,000.

King estimates that AMD Opteron’s installed base made up about a quarter of the x86 server market in 2008, so the market for these processor upgrades could be significant.

Banda says that AMD’s reseller channel partners target a range of customer sizes, from large, high-performance computing environments to small businesses with one to three servers.

Those small business customers are likely to see a big boost in performance by replacing their processors, says Banda, particularly if they are going from dual core to quad core.

It’s a message that has the potential to gain some traction during a tough recessionary year, says King.

“Considering the strain the economic downturn has placed on IT budgets, many companies are scrambling, not always successfully, to find funding for brand new servers,” he says. “Achieving a significant performance boost for a fraction of that cost could make in-place Opteron upgrades and AMD’s discount program extremely popular.”