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.

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