RealTime IT News

AMD Contributes to Virtualization Craze

SAN FRANCISCO -- AMD is approaching its software vendors in earnest hoping to cash in on a little virtualization and consolidation.

The semiconductor maker used the backdrop of the LinuxWorld conference here to talk up server virtualization and how its Opteron processors can help. The ability to run different operating systems and applications on the same physical server allows businesses to consolidate server workloads -- something companies turning to Linux are interested in. Should one virtual machine go down, another would step up to perform its tasks.

Helping its cause, AMD announced this week that it has optimized VMware's ESX Server software for IBM's e325 server and HP's four-way ProLiant DL585. Both IBM and HP have long used VMware technology for their products and remain key partners with the separate subsidiary of storage software vendor EMC .

Support for AMD's desktop and workstation processor -- AMD64 -- is available on an experimental basis in VMware GSX Server and VMware Workstation, with support for both Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 64-bit host operating systems. Support for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit extended systems is available in its beta format only at this time, the companies said.

"Strategically, enterprises that leverage virtualization technologies will be able to react to changing requirements more rapidly by using server resources as a pool of resources," Gartner research analyst Thomas Bittman said. "Enterprises should pursue long-term relationships with vendors that have solid virtualization plans either directly or through partnerships."

Ultimately, this type of platform is what IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems, and Veritas Software, among others, are looking to provide to tempt customers at a time when CIOs are being asked to simplify data center management and trim costs.

And even though it has large virtualization vendors (save Dell) under its wing, Patrick Patla, AMD director of marketing for servers and workstations, said the company wanted to spend time working with its software partners who are transitioning from 32-bit to 64-bit architectures and who wish to optimize their software for virtualization on 2- and 4-way machines.

"We have more than 150 partners, and we're talking to everyone from Oracle to Sendmail," Patla said "Making sure that they are checking all of the aspects of Opteron. We want them to take advantage of libraries and understand their documentation because they are going to know their capabilities better than we will."

AMD also highlights its inherent price advantage for virtualization over rivals like Intel , Patla said. The Opteron is based on an architecture, which directly connects the processors, the memory controller and the I/O so it avoids the need for a separate chipset.

"At the end of the day, people like to have one SMP [Symmetric Multi-Processing] system instead of two," Patla said. "It's like diagonal scaling. For example, our 8-way systems have an advantage over a processor like the Xeon MP because we eliminate the chipset. You can spend $3,000 on a chipset alone. Their Xeon in that equation costs $3,682. Our Opteron 800-series costs $1,514. Multiply that by eight and then add in the chipset on top of that and you're talking about a $20,000 advantage in our favor.

Opteron: The Road Ahead

Currently, AMD is working with Sun's John Fowler and Andy Bechtolsheim's group on Sun's upcoming Opteron 8-way system. After the launch of Sun's V20z and V40z servers, Patla said the two companies are finding they have hit a groove.

"Sun is still the strongest tool partner, and they are strong in the vendor space. We understand that," Patla said. "Like IBM did when they brought in their connections with DB2, Sun is bringing a lot of partners to the space, especially ones that design for Java on x86 systems. I should note that Andy and his company Kealia was a customer that took advantage of our Boston design center. So we were working with their partners and their early stages of development."

In a separate announcement this week, AMD formally introduced its Professional Design Support Services program at its Boston design center to help develop systems based on its chips from embedded systems and client products to high-end High Performance Computing (HPC) servers.

Going forward, Patla said AMD Opteron family is on track to transition to 90-nanometer and start volume production this quarter, shipping to partners in the third quarter of 2004. AMD is expected to shift its entire lineup to dual-core configurations by mid-2005.

AMD's Opteron roadmap reads like a Mediterranean vacation with code-names like Athens, Troy and Venus bestowed on its Opteron 8-way, 2-way and 1-way chips, respectively. All three cores are due out by the end of the year and are expected to contain 1 megabyte of L2 cache. The first Athens core -- Opteron 852 -- is expected to run at 2.6 gigahertz.