AMD Seeks to Change
Price-Performance Balance"> But what may eventually guide those customers is, in a word, "price", according to Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research Corp. of Cave Creek, Ariz. "The reality is that AMD always positioned the Opteron against the Xeon," added Mike Feibus, principal at TechKnowledge Strategies Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.AMD cut the price of its 848 and 846 chips by nearly 50 percent, reducing their tags to $1,514 and $1,165, respectively. The company also cut the price of the Opteron 842 and Opteron 840 to $698, an indication that AMD will cut the slower chip from its portfolio. The chipmaker also made smaller cuts across its remaining Opteron processors. Currently, Intels multiprocessor Xeons range in price from a 1.5-GHz Xeon for $1,177 to $3,692 for a 2.8-GHz model. AMD also has some other arrows in its quiver. On Tuesday, AMD released two new low-power versions, the Opteron 846HE and Opteron 840EE, which consume 55 and 30 watts of power, respectively. Both are designed for servers with four or more processors. Conversely, a GHz Xeon MP with 1 MB of L2 cache consumes about 57 watts and Intels fastest 2.8-GHz Xeon MP chip consumes 72 watts. In addition, Microsoft may also require a hardware abstraction layer for Intels new 64-bit Xeons to make them fully compatible with its Windows Server 2003 Extended Edition, which was originally designed for the AMD Opteron, according to Kimball Brown, a former Dataquest analyst and vice president of business development for ServerWorks, a server chipset division of Broadcom Corp. AMD officials also said that the 32-bit performance of the Opteron will remain superior to the Xeon, even after the enhancements are added. "Were still differentiating our processor lineup in the same way since we introduced them," said AMD spokeswoman Amy Stansbury. "In addition to 64-bit complexity, well be better on industry-standard benchmarks as well." The differences lie in the microarchitectural construction of the chips, she said. But for now, AMDs advantage remains secure. "This year Xeon cant compete with Opteron," said Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst with In-Stat/MDR in San Jose, Calif., who said AMD will eventually design multicore Opterons that imitate Intels chip-level multithreading, called hyperthreading. "AMD has a really good argument for many years," Glaskowsky said. Over time, however, its advantage will wane, he added. Check out eWEEK.coms Server and Networking Center at http://servers.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switching and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
Meanwhile, AMD may have fired an early shot in the price war Tuesday when it lowered prices on many of its Opteron processors, especially its high-end 800 series.