RealTime IT News

AMD Launching Dual-Core Opteron, Athlon

UPDATED: Two years after the debut of its Opteron processor, AMD is launching its first dual-core x86 64-bit chip for servers and workstations.

The chipmaker also announced an upcoming dual-core Athlon 64 processor made for desktop PCs, which AMD is calling the X2. AMD said it also plans to introduce a dual-core version of its Athlon FX processor when multithreaded software games become more the rule than the exception.

As previously reported, AMD will host a launch party in New York today to introduce its line of dual-core Opteron and Athlon chips. Chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz will be on hand to highlight the qualities of the processor.

AMD said it has three 800-series processors ready for shipping for four- to eight-way servers. The company said its 200-series Opteron would be ready in May for two-way servers and workstations. AMD said it is still on track to deliver its 100-series Opteron in the third quarter of this year.

"We decided to launch our dual-core Opteron for servers and workstations first because it would give us the biggest bang for the buck," Gina Longoria, AMD Opteron 200 Series Product Manager, told internetnews.com. "We expect our customers to really take on dual-core and we see us getting further into the enterprise market because of it."

Dual-core processors, which consist of two cores on one piece of silicon, are widely seen as a promising way to boost computing power, allowing servers, workstations and PCs to perform more functions simultaneously. Both AMD and Intel are transitioning their PC and server product lines to dual-core chips.

AMD was originally scheduled to launch its dual-core lineup in mid-2005, but Longoria said the company found tests inside and outside of AMD were going well enough that it could be flexible on the release date.

The dual-core Opteron is designed to be pin-compatible with AMD's current line of single-core Opteron and requires only a BIOS update to get up and running. AMD partners IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems are all shipping products based on the new chip as early as May.

The chips are made using 90-nanometer process technology and have approximately 233 million transistors on each production wafer. In contrast to a compatible Xeon processor, AMD said its Opteron chips use 95 watts of power, which is becoming a deal maker for some IT shops.

"IT managers are struggling with both the logistics and economics of these power-intensive processors," Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64.com, said. "Power consumption and heat dissipation problems are keeping data centers from achieving hoped-for system densities. If they can cut a few kilowatts here and a few kilowatts there, pretty soon it adds up to real economic benefits."

AMD said its Opteron 800-series starts at $1,514 in 1,000-unit quantities with the 865 running at 1.8 GHz, the 870 reaching speeds of 2.0 GHz and the 875 topping off at 2.2 GHz.

The company said its upcoming 200-series will start at $851 in 1,000-unit quantities with the 265, 270, and 275 reaching speeds of 1.8 GHz, 2.0 GHz, and 2.2 GHz respectively.

When it becomes available this summer, AMD said its Athlon 64 X2 will come in four different designs ranging from the 4800+ running 2.4 GHz and two separate caches of 1MB apiece. AMD said it sill also offer a 4600+, a 4400+ and a 4200+ with slightly slower clock speeds and variable cache configurations.

The new Opteron also supports a crossbar to memory controller and HyperTransport technology. AMD said more than 1,300 applications from more than 300 ISVs and open source software organizations are featured on the AMD64 software ecosystem.

Longoria said AMD is avoiding selling the dual-core to a particular vertical like financial services, telecommunications or government. Instead, the chipmaker is marketing the Opteron at specific functions in a network.

"With the economics of dual-core, we are seeing more adoption of the Opteron family at the back end of the data center," Longoria said. "Customers are telling us that they can use the dual-core processor for their databases and enterprise class applications."

Longoria said AMD is also excited that the dual-core Opteron is getting a nod in the blade server market. So far, AMD has 10 different customers building tight enclosures based on the new chip.

For the initial AMD64 dual-core product releases in mid-2005, AMD is taking a stand when it comes to software licensing. The company is recommending that ISVs license by processor instead of by processor core. The recommendation only applies to software licensing methods that rely on processor count, the company said. Microsoft and Intel also back the initiative.