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Farewell Tour For Single-Core AMD Opteron

For over a year, AMD has repeatedly hammered home the message that two cores are better than one. In fact, its wildly successful dual-core Opterons have boosted AMD and sales of systems by HP, IBM, Sun and others.

But there are many older applications that benefit more from faster single core performance than multicore systems they're not designed to exploit. With that in mind, AMD has released what it says is the last scheduled upgrade to the single-core Opteron family.

The Opteron processor models 256 and 856 are shipping now, while a third in the x56 series, the Opteron 156, will ship in the next 30 days. The Operton 256 and 856 sport 128KB L1 cache and 1MB L2 cache. The Opteron 156 has 1 MB L2 cache.

The x56 series features a performance boost to 3.0 GHz while running in the same thermal envelope of 95 watts as other Opteron processors.

HP and Sun were quick to announce immediate availability of systems. HP is offering workstations based on the Opteron 256, while Sun has workstations and servers based on the Opteron 256 and 856 processors. IBM said it will have workstations out in the next 30 days based on the 256.

"I don't think this is a price story; it's for customers who run programs that don't benefit from multicore and can actually get better performance with these systems running at a higher clock speed," Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64, told internetnews.com,.

"AMD backs off a bit on performance to get multicore to work in the 95-watt thermal envelope, but for single threaded applications, AMD doesn't have to back off and can deliver faster performance."

While no specific timetable was mentioned, AMD said it will deliver single-core x56 Opterons "as long as the market for these processors remains."

Brookwood doesn't think there will be any significant x56 system rollouts a year from now, as system makers go beyond dual-core into quad-core territory.

Although Sun is among the biggest proponents of multicore, it was quick to also tout the advantages of its latest x56-based systems.

Sun said its Sun Fire Servers and workstations, based on Opteron x56 processors, established 16 performance records running a variety of operating systems, including SUSE and Red Hat Linux, Windows and Sun's own Solaris 10.

Pat Patla, director, server/workstation marketing at AMD, noted in a statement that "even as the industry shifts towards multi-core, AMD continues to offer single-core AMD Opteron processors that address today's datacenter concerns such as performance, power efficiency and TCO [total cost of ownership]."



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