AMD Reveals New Opterons for Grid Work

SAN FRANCISCO — AMD Tuesday released two new additions to its Opteron processor family specifically targeted with grid computing in mind.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based semiconductor maker said the new models: 846 and 146 will sell for $3,199 and $669 in 1,000 units respectively. AMD will market the two chips for 4 to 8-way small enterprise servers that are priced under $25,000.

Processing speeds were not available by press time, but AMD said its new Opteron 846, for example, can outperform its x86 competition on SPECweb 99 SSL and SPECjbb 2000 benchmarks.

“The best in 32-bit and 64-bit server computing begins and ends with the AMD Opteron processor,” AMD vice president Marty Seyer said in a statement. “By introducing these two new processors, AMD is again giving customers the industry’s highest-performing x86 processor-based server for the applications they use most with the flexibility to run more powerful 64-bit applications when they choose. With the AMD Opteron processor Model 146, AMD will re-energize the workstation market.”

The company is one of several that are making grid-related announcements during this week’s OracleWorld Conference here. Now five-months-old, the company says its AMD Opteron processors are optimized for clustering and making their way into larger and larger systems.

The company is no stranger to clustering or high performance computing environments. Earlier this summer, the company announced two major projects that puts its Opteron chips in the top five fastest machines as ranked by the independent TOP500 List of Supercomputers.

Oracle says its has been working together for the past two years to develop a low-cost platform that runs on AMD’s chips. The fruits of which are being discussed for the first time this week.

“Oracle Database 10g on AMD Opteron processor-based systems will deliver a powerful yet cost-effective platform for enterprise grid computing,” said Oracle vice president of Platform Partners Dave Dargo

AMD designed its 64-bit processors with backward compatibility for 32-bit applications. The chips come with an integrated memory controller — a 128-bit, dual-channel design supporting DDR266 and DDR333 SDRAM. The chips also offer support for SSE, SSE2, MMX, 3DNow! technology and legacy x86 instructions.

The Opteron series, for example, has 64-bit integer registers, 48-bit virtual addresses, 40-bit physical addresses, eight new 64-bit integer registers (16 total) and eight new 128-bit SSE/SSE2 registers (16 total).

The chips also include AMD’s HyperTransport technology to I/O devices complete with three links, 16-bits in each direction. Each supports up to 1600 MT/s or 3.2 GB/s in each direction. Each link can connect to an I/O device or another processor.

The company said the next version of its Opteron Processor (code-named Athens) is not due until the first half of 2004. The company’s other named 64-bit chip, the Athlon64 is scheduled to debut on September 23.

A spokesperson for AMD told it is in talks with the top-tier vendors to use its new 100-Series and 800-Series processors, but declined to be more specific.

The company’s usual manufacturing partners are expected to sign up to use the new Opteron chips including @Xi Computer Corporation, ABS, Angstrom Microsystems, Appro, Aspen Systems, Atipa Technologies, BOLData Systems, BOXX Technologies, California Digital, Colfax International, Einux, Elite PC, Linux NetworX, M&A Technology, Micro Pro, Microway, Monarch Computer Systems, PSSC Labs, Penguin Computing, RackSaver, Think Computers and Western Scientific.

Crunch Time For Opteron

The OpteronBut analysts say 2004 could be the final make-or-break year for AMD based on how well Opteron does. A report issued last week by analyst firm In-Stat/MDR says AMD needs to make its 64-bit family a success in order to improve its overall ASP (and top line revenue) and reduce manufacturing cost with 90nm production to the point where it can be profitable.

“AMD’s Opteron will offer key technical advantages such as 64-bit capabilities, an on-chip memory controller, high performance, and HyperTransport links for glueless multiprocessing with up to eight processors,” the analyst firm said in its report. “Despite these advantages, we see an up-hill battle for AMD to gain market share in servers and capture an extensive (volume) commitment from top tier OEM customers.”

Another critical area In-Stat identified with AMD is that the company is moving away from being a vertically integrated company; a transformation may take it so far as to become a fabless company in 2007. The thinking by analysts is that AMD would rely on IBM Microelectronics for its 65nm semiconductor process manufacturing.

“Considering the lead time to build a new fab and bring it into production (AMD’s Fab30 took over three years from announcement to yielding first silicon), AMD is already too late building a new fab to produce 65nm product in 2005,” the analyst firm said.

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