RealTime IT News

AMD Claims Better Way For Server Upgrades

AMD is turning up the heat on rival Intel with a new hardware interface it claims will simplify server upgrades.

The company released its new Open Platform Management Architecture (OPMA) for motherboards running its 64-bit Opteron and Athlon processors today.

Originally outlined in a December 2004 announcement, the specification defines a common hardware interface between the server platform and its server management subsystem, including the connector, electrical, mechanical, and firmware interfaces.

Management subsystems feature cards that are OPMA compliant will be known as mCards, the company said in its licensing information.

In the past, AMD said platform hardware manageability in servers was "treated as a premium, OEM-specific value-added feature." One of the biggest challenges is that IT managers, server OEMs and motherboard manufacturers lack common interface standards for embedded system management.

Currently, the BMC (Baseboard Management Controller) firmware and IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) command interfaces to the host and remote systems are clearly defined and widely accepted. For example, IPMI defines common interfaces to "intelligent" hardware used to monitor a server's physical health characteristics, such as temperature, voltage, fans, power supplies and chassis. Intel, HP, NEC, and Dell have thrown their support for the IPMI standard.

AMD said hardware management is evolving into becoming a standards-based, "must have" feature found on the vast majority of enterprise class servers. In contrast, the company said proprietary manageability hardware subsystems can result in inconsistent designs and a complex upgrade path.

"We embrace and promote a collaborative, connected business model," Marty Seyer, corporate vice president at AMD said in a statement. "The OPMA specification is just one more example of how AMD innovates within industry standards to provide real solutions to real problems. Open standards puts the power of choice back in the hands of customers."

The OPMA connector provides the interface between manageability components including BMCs, network interface controllers (NICs), standardized system busses between sensor devices and the system microprocessors. AMD said OPMA feature cards contain BMC firmware that communicates with software such as BIOS , drivers, manageability software suites, system management frameworks and operating systems.

The chipmaker said it will be approaching partner businesses that develop, test, and market server platforms and management subsystems such as IBM, HP, and Sun Microsystems .

AMD's biggest sell, however, may remain with the largest vendor of x86 systems. Dell CEO Kevin Rollins said last week that his company had completed its review of AMD's processor lineup and has recommitted itself to Intel's architectures instead.

AMD said its OPMA also helps free up the PCI slot commonly used for keyboard, video, and mouse over Internet Protocol (KVMoIP) feature cards while improving the performance of the remote graphics console.

Peppercon, out of Zwickau, Germany, which makes embedded KVM-over-IP modules and subsystems for remote server management -- said it is shipping daughter cards based on AMD's OPMA specification.