When Sun speaks, AMD

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2005-10-20 Print this article Print

listens"> Although the chips are not exclusive to Sun and the company didnt necessarily get earlier access to them than others, it shows the length AMD is willing to go to, the executives said. "Looking forward, to a much larger degree, what were doing is a function of what Sun and others tell us—but Sun has a very loud voice inside our shop—therefore the silicon that comes out is almost a reflection of the systems Sun has in mind to begin with," Meyer said.
But its a more organic process than Sun just giving AMD a list of features it would like added to the Opteron. Engineers go back and forth on a daily basis, while formal reviews take place every few months. AMD has reviewed most of Suns product designs. AMD is, at the moment, testing the follow-on to Galaxy, Fowler said.
Click here to read more about the Suns other processors. Fowler, for his part, would like to see AMD continue to boost the Opterons performance per watt of energy it consumes. "I think AMD is working on it," he said. "We dont help them design any of their chips. But weve gone to them and said, Hey. The following features, over the long run, would really help in this area." AMD will incorporate Suns ideas for future chips, such as the successor to the current Opteron, Meyer said. "The standard mode of operation is going to be one of AMD engineers involved in the specific design of AMD processor products. But those engineers will get substantial input from their counterparts at Sun, especially relative to features that influence system design, whether its memory controller capabilities, Hypertransport capabilities of the future or what have you," he said. "We do the design, but based on input from Sun. Thats the model." Sun has weighed in on performance, energy efficiency, reliability, serviceability and things like memory, Fowler said. "We have provided input that would go into processor designs that are quite a few years out. So we havent been shy," he said. AMD is listening intently as both companies goals are similar. The chipmaker wants to further its goals of acquiring larger market shares in servers and overall x86 chip shipments. It passed about 10 percent of x86 server chip shipments during the second quarter. But it is aiming to garner 30 percent or more of shipments, over time, Meyer said. "I want to be known as [having] the best server technology out there in the x86 area. I also want AMD to be known for how good a job we do building technology around end users and our customers requirements," he said. Suns ambition is similar: Boost sales by offering products that range from single processor servers, which start at less than $1,000, to large, multi-processor machines for high-end applications. "Whats going to be particularly interesting also, I think, is as you move up into eight socket [servers]—Intel is presently is only going up in there with Itanium—theres a whole area of the marketplace that I think AMD…in general can do extremely well at," Fowler said. Sun has said that an eight-socket Sun Fire Opteron machine will be part of its Galaxy line in the near future. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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