New Direction

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-06-28 Print this article Print

Dracott said he does not feel that Intel is following AMD into the market, even though AMD started shipping its Opteron server chips last year. AMDs Opteron uses an integrated memory controller, which AMD has said improves the overall performance of the part. Intels "segregated" chip sets will allow for different combinations of price and performance, such as the ability to use cheaper DDR1 memory. "I think were pursuing a different direction, taking a different step to overall performance," he said. AMD executives responded by pointing out that the Opteron product line is currently the incumbent. "There remain critical advantages in the AMD64 platform not addressed by extending the Intel Prescott architecture to 64-bits," said Ben Williams, vice president of enterprise and server/workstation business for AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif. "While Intel has done a good job of adopting some elements of AMD64, they have yet to address the fundamental architectural differences that make the AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Opteron processors superior."
AMD currently serves a broader market of one- to eight-way servers and one- to two-way workstations, Williams said. In addition, the Opteron will also enjoy a low-power advantage.
Intels Tumwater/Nocona platform has tried to mitigate that advantage by building in a technology called DBS (demand-based switching), which monitors the application load on the processor. If a processor is running under a reduced load, the chip set can dial back the operating voltage, reducing the power the chip consumes. In a white paper due to be released in a few weeks, Intel will claim that the DBS technology will consume 28 percent less power on a "typical configuration," which includes a gigabyte of DRAM, the Nocona and Tumwater platform, and 30 percent CPU utilization, according to Scott Smith, a spokesman for Intel. The market advantage is somewhat muddier in software, where both companies are waiting for Microsoft Corp. to ship a final version of its Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Pro software with support for both companies 64-bit technologies. Both companies will also be subject to the development cycles of third-party IHVs, which will have to write drivers for the new 64-bit OSes. "Youll always need new drivers for the 64-bit OSes," sad Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64 in Saratoga, Calif. "The common ones like the chip set will be available rapidly. The more esoteric ones will be a big constraint on anyone moving to 64-bit Windows environments, something like a printer driver or something mundane like that." Prices of the new Nocona chips will range from $209 to $851, in 1,000-unit lots. Check out eWEEK.coms Desktop & Notebook Center at for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing. Editors Note: This story was updated with comments from Intel executives and analyst Brookwood.


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