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Vendors Rally Around Dual-Core

AMD's largest hardware partners are stumbling over each other in support of the chipmaker's new dual-core Opteron.

IBM, HP, and Sun Microsystems are scheduled to present their latest wares based on the new chip at an AMD event in New York today.

All three OEMs are supporting AMD's choice to ship its 800-series Opteron chips first and then its 200-series and eventually its 100-series processors. The decision lets the vendors entice enterprise customers with blade servers, workstations and 4-way servers right from the start.

Because the new processor is pin-compatible with the current single-core Opteron, customers will be able to order product now and have it shipped by May, each of the companies told internetnews.com.

In addition, HP and Sun said their reseller partnerships with AMD let them sell the chips directly to customers and swap out the old processor for the new one. However, execs with HP and Sun said they expect the majority of their customers to just buy new systems.

Each of the computer makers has a vested interest in the success of AMD's next generation Opteron chips. Each helped contribute to its architecture and/or its proliferation in the market. For example, IBM co-developed silicon on insulator technology with AMD, an important component in Opteron's ability to run at lower wattages. IBM was also the first to ship Opteron two years ago.

Sun signed its strategic partnership with AMD in 2003 and uses Opteron as its volume x86 server platform of choice. The companies are reportedly collaborating on Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim's upcoming servers, code-named Galaxy. Sun also uses AMD products to help it run test programs for its new relationship with Microsoft .

HP is using dual-core AMD chips as a sales weapon against rival Dell, . Dell only uses Intel products and remains uncommitted to AMD. The computer and printer maker said it is proud of the fact that AMD first demonstrated their dual-core processor on an HP system late last year.

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 choosing the path of dual-core chips to meet the continuing need for faster processing cycles, as single-core silicon begins to hit a wall of heat dissipation and power consumption.

Intel and AMD have both said they expect the transition their entire product lines to dual-core architectures to wrap up between now and 2007.

IBM

IBM's zeal for selling dual-core Opteron is tempered by Big Blue's desire to sell its own POWER 5 chips. But the company said it is strategically committed to AMD's 200-series for its IBM eServer and IntelliStation product lines.

The computer giant said it is shipping a new A Pro 6217 IntelliStation in June starting at $3259. The workstation, based on the Opteron 275, features the next generation of PCI Express, x16 2D/3D graphics from Nvidia and 3Dlabs with dual-display support for up to four-cores per system and up to 16GB PC3200 error correction code memory.

IBM also announced that the IBM eServer 326 high performance 1U server line would be expanded to include the AMD Opteron dual-core processors in May.

"When a customer is asking for more power and performance more often than not they are asking for improvements to the CPU and the memory," Susan Davi, Worldwide product manager, IntelliStation A Pro at IBM, told internetnews.com.

One of those customers is Santa Monica-based Luminetik Animation Studios, a 3D Animation and Visual Effects House best known for its anime star Akiko Ashley.

HP

HP is offering up largest amount of Opteron-based servers, including three different blade servers, three ProLiant DL products and a workstation.

The company has the incentive to keep a healthy stock of AMD products. Dell remains the number one vendor for x86 servers, even though IDC's latest Server Tracker stats show HP sells more Opteron-based servers by volume than the rest of the pack.

To keep the heat on Dell and the others, HP is launching its 4-processor BL45p blade ($6,999) and 4-processor DL585 ($9,999). The DL585 now supports 1.8 and 2.2GHz dual-core processors, 1GHz HyperTransport, and PC2700 and PC3200 memory. The server is also catching the eye of HP partner DreamWorks. The BL45p server features SAN storage capability, 32GB memory capacity and four gigabit NICs standard with optional Fibre Channel support.

Steve Cummings, group manager ProLiant Opteron, told internetnews.com that HP is structuring its pricing for the new systems so that the lowest bin dual-core is the same price as the company's fastest single core server.

"You don't always have a chance to create a new market category and we're now going to do it for a second time," he said. "First is out adoption of Opteron and now we are reclassifying the market transition to 4-way off of 8-way servers."

HP said the next phase is to launch its Opteron 200-series ProLiant BL25p, BL35p, DL385 and the HP xw9300 workstation with dual-core technologies starting in May. The workstation features the NVIDIA nForce Professional chipset.

Sun

Sun is taking the quick and easy route when it comes to its transition to dual-core Opteron.

The company said it would transition its entire x64 product line to the new architecture starting with its Sun Fire V40z server. The current V40z ships with a single-core Opteron but easily becomes a dual-core machine after a chip replacement and an upgrade to the driver. Sun said its dual-core Opteron would be available in May.

Sun said customers will also be able to purchase an 8-way server equipped with the dual-core AMD Opteron processor Model 875 and 16GB of memory for about the same price as a 4-way server powered with the single-core Opteron processor Model 850 when it was first introduced last year, for $38,995.

Graham Lovell, a product marketing director with Sun, told internetnews.com that Sun prefers to ship its V40z with Solaris 10 but the server can be partitioned to run Windows and Linux as well.

"Where that alignment occurs is where you'll see us shine," Lovell said.

Sun is also looking to capitalize on the growing momentum in hardware and software virtualization. AMD is expecting to offer its Pacifica virtualization technology in 2006. Lovell said Sun is looking to match that advantage with Solaris features like Containers, Predictive Self Healing and Dynamic Tracing (DTrace) as well as using open source plug-ins like Xen.

As for software vendors, Microsoft's chance to chat up the new dual-core Opteron comes next week. The company is hosting AMD and other companies at WinHEC, its annual hardware partner event in Seattle. Microsoft is expected to announce new x86 64-bit versions of its Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional editions. AMD is expected to play a major role in helping get that message out.

AMD says it is also working with tier-one providers like Oracle and SAP to evangelize its x86 64-bit dual-core architecture.



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