AMD Pushes Ahead With Server Performance

AMD plans to announce new models of its dual-core Opteron processor for servers Monday, in a bit of timing that is likely not incidental.

The news comes one day before Intel’s big Intel Developer Conference in San Francisco. AMD has been touting market share gains and performance-per-watt benchmarks that indicate an advantage versus Intel.

“This is just one more performance gain for us and we’re shipping now, not talking about products coming out later in the year like our competitor,” Pat Patla, director of server and workstation marketing at AMD, told “We have the best performance-per-watt and we plan to maintain that lead.”

But the new chips aren’t a major upgrade.

“This is really a speed-bump,” Nathan Brookwood, analyst with insight64, said. “They’re talking about roughly a four percent performance improvement which isn’t going to get too many people excited. It helps with some things, but we’re not talking about new functionality. For example, it’s not any better at virtualization [than AMD’s earlier version].”

The new dual-core 2.6 GHz Opterons are model 285 for two-way/four-core workstations and servers and model 885 for up to eight-way/16 core enterprise-class servers. Volume pricing is $1,051 and $2,149, respectively.

Patla said there is strong interest among server makers in the new processors. Based on customer feedback he expects there to be double the number of server platforms using AMD processors by the end of 2006. “I can’t give you the customer names, but I know the number will double and that means more sockets and more places to sell our processors.”

One area both AMD and Intel plan to go after aggressively this year are four-way servers. Patla said AMD’s share of the four-way space has grown to forty percent in the U.S. “We’re a force to be reckoned with, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve done there.”

At the higher-end of the market Patla says eight-way is a lower volume though interesting space for AMD. “We’ve always said we’re going after the volume market. We can bring a better solution at lower cost to eight-way systems but we have no desire, for example, to get distracted and go after Itanium. We want to reach the core, main customers in the enterprise.”

Intel previewed some of its plans last month in a technology demonstration of “Clovertown,” a quad-core microprocessor slated to appear in servers in the first quarter of 2007.

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