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.

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