AMD’s Expanding Opteron Family

AMD returned to its close-knit group of friends to
introduce its latest round of two-way and four-way x86 processors for servers and workstations.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based semiconductor maker introduced three new
Opteron chips Tuesday: Models 850, 250 and 150, priced at $1,514, $851
and $637, respectively. The chips are geared to compete with Intel
Xeon processors.

While the new processors are designed for the gamut of enterprise
configurations, AMD said it decided to start with model 250 for
high-performance dual-processor workstations and servers. AMD’s partners
IBM, Sun Microsystems, and HP , as well as a bevy of other vendors (except for Dell), said they are
all ready to ship the new chips. AMD said the other two models — the 150,
for single-processor workstations and entry-level servers, and the model
850, for enterprise-class servers — should be ready in about 30 days.

The new chips feature Direct Connect Architecture, which directly
connects the processors, the memory controller and the I/O to the central
processor unit, helping to smash bottlenecks inherent in a front-side
bus, the company said. The technology also makes it easier to put two cores
on a single chipset.

Marty Seyer, AMD’s vice president and general manager of the
Microprocessor Business Unit, also said the company is close to
transitioning its product line to 90-nanometer (nm) manufacturing.

“We have already begun initial production of 90-nm AMD64 processors, and
we are on target to begin shipping 90-nm processors for revenue in the third
quarter,” Seyer said in a statement.

Both the Direct Connect technology and the 90-nm process are expected to
help AMD launch its first dual-core processor. Executives with the chipmaker
were quoted Monday suggesting that AMD’s launch would come about the same
time as Intel’s first dual-core Pentium in 2005.

Seyer’s boss, CEO Hector Ruiz, spent the week in Dresden, Germany advancing
the company’s ability to supply the increased demand. The chief helped
open AMD’s next-generation 300-millimeter (mm) manufacturing facility, AMD
Fab 36. The plant is expected to produce 300 mm silicon test wafers around
mid-2005, with the first commercial shipments planned for the first half of
2006.

The Fab 36 plant is expected to hire upwards of 1,000 employees by 2007.
AMD said it plans on investing close to $2.5 billion through the same
timeframe on the Fab.

The release comes at a critical time as AMD is gaining traction in
the marketplace. A survey last week showed that AMD outsold Intel in North
American retail desktop sales. AMD is hoping to use that momentum to sell
its server chips.

“While I consider AMD’s new MPUs to be better than any microprocessors
the company has produced in the past, in my view these new parts are still
not good enough to challenge Intel’s dominance in the microprocessor
business,” Melanie Hollands, president of Koala Capital, a hedge fund that
focuses on technology stocks, recently told internetnews.com.


Hollands continued: “In the
past, AMD has never been able to make any great strides in penetrating the
server processor market, and my sense is while its 64-bit chips may be
technically better than past efforts, I don’t see Opteron or Athlon 64 being
able to engender enough OEMs to switch that it threatens Intel’s dominance.
That said – I do believe that AMD can carve out a strong niche and take some
share from Intel.:

In related news, AMD helped launch two new NOR Flash memory families as
part of its Spansion partnership with Fujitsu. Based on 110-nanometer
floating-gate technology, the new S29WS-J and S29NS-J Flash memory families
are designed to improve on existing wireless designs. The new memory offers
128- and 64-megabit densities, high-frequency burst mode interfaces and
simultaneous read-write operation in single-die and multi-chip package
configurations.

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