New AMD Opteron Systems Unleashed

The battle between AMD  and Intel  rages on. This week it’s AMD’s turn.

Today, AMD officially rolled out “Rev F,” the latest version of its Opteron processor for servers and workstations, and several top tier computer makers announced new Rev F-based systems.

HP continued its multi-platform support strategy with news that all its Opteron-based Proliant servers, workstations and blade systems will sport the new chip.

Unlike HP,  which said its new servers will be available later this year, Sun’s new Opteron systems are shipping now. Separately, Sun  announced immediate availability of new systems based on a new, higher performance version of its Sparc processor. This one’s called the UltraSparc IV+.

The latest Opterons arrive only two months after Intel’s high profile rollout of “Woodcrest,” a significant enhancement of its Xeon server chip line that vaulted the company ahead of AMD in many performance benchmarks.

But analyst Nathan Brookwood said the performance difference between the two platforms is now less significant than it’s been in years.

Brookwood, head of research firm Insight64, said applications that can tap the Xeon 5100’s large cache memory will perform better; but applications with large data sets, streaming and apps that go right to main memory, favor Opteron and its integrated memory controller.

“AMD’s direct connect architecture does offer advantages for virtualization that our customers are excited about,” John Gromala, direct of server marketing at HP, told

“Our strategy is to provide a choice of processor that fits the customer’s given application or brand preference.”

Gromala also took note of IBM’s recent decision to expand the number of Opteron-based servers it offers.

“A lot of other vendors are seeing our growth and endorsing our decisions to offer choice,” said Gromala. Intel stalwart Dell has also announced plans to offer its first AMD-based system later this year.

HP said its latest systems will run about 15 percent faster than earlier Opteron systems thanks to speed gains in the processor and other enhancements to its systems such as smarter RAID  controllers and faster networking,

Sun Serves up Ten New Systems

Meanwhile, Sun has announced the availability of ten new systems, three based on the new Opteron and seven on its own UltraSparc IV+ processor running at 1.8 GHz.

The new Sun Fire V490, V890, E2900, E4900, E6900, E20K and E25K servers run on the latest UltraSparc IV+ and include double the memory capacity and improved I/O of earlier models.

Designed for high performance computing applications, Sun said the systems have set numerous world record benchmark performance levels. Prices start at $40,995 for the Sun Fire V490 server.

The entry-level pricing for the Sun Fire X2100 M2 server and Sun Fire X2200 M2 server starts at $945 and $1,595, respectively. Entry-level pricing for the Sun Ultra 20 M2 Workstation begins at $995.

“We believe our Sun Ultra 20, priced at $995, is the fastest, single socket workstation in the world,” said Arvie Martin, group marketing manager for X64 systems at Sun.

Sun is the only major vendor with AMD as its sole x86 supplier. The results have been impressive; Sun claims the x86 part of its business is operating at an annual run rate of $500 million.

On the UltraSparc side, Sun said the new systems run up to eight times faster than earlier generations and twice as fast as the most recent UltraSparc 4.

Bob McGaughey, director of product marketing for UltraSparc IV and IV+, noted current Sun customers can upgrade to the newer processor.

“It’s all upgradeable, from UltraSparc III and up from five years ago, without swapping the box out,” he said.

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