The usual server makers stepped up March 29 to offer systems based on Advanced Micro Devices' "Magny-Cours" processors, which offer eight and 12 cores per CPU.
Dell, Hewlett-Packard, SGI, Cray and Appro all announced plans for new or enhanced systems powered by the Opteron 6000s.
However, one surprise name in the bunch was Acer Group, the world's second-largest PC maker and a company that is now looking to push its way back into the x86 server space.
Acer rolled out some Intel-based servers in late 2009, but company officials are making a strong case for their new AMD-based systems. According to a joint release from AMD and Acer, the two companies worked closely together to design the systems.
The new servers are aimed at smaller businesses and technical workloads, according to Gianluca Degliesposti, vice president of Acer's global server business development group.
"By taking advantage of the unique features of the new AMD Opteron 6000 Series platform, Acer Group SMB [small and midsize business] and HPC [high-performance computing] partners are well positioned to deliver extreme value with high performance, energy-efficient servers to customers worldwide," Degliesposti said in a statement.
AMD is in a fierce competition with larger rival Intel to capitalize on what OEM executives and industry analysts predict will be an aggressive refresh of servers in 2010, driven in large part by the innovation from the two chip makers and by the age of systems that businesses kept longer than usual due to the global recession.
AMD officials are pushing several angles with the new Opterons, including the higher performance, memory capacity and ROI for businesses, coupled with aggressive pricing and low power consumption.
The new Opterons offer twice the performance and two-and-a-half times the memory bandwidth of AMD's current six-core server chips. They also have 50 percent higher DIMM (dual in-line memory module) capacity, all at a 10 percent lower processor price, according to the chip maker.
AMD officials also are pushing a differentiated strategy from that of Intel, which is expected to roll out its high-end eight-core "Nehalem EX" processors March 30, aimed at servers with four or more sockets.
Intel officials say the new chips will push deeper into higher-end workloads that traditionally run on Unix-based RISC architectures.
For its part, AMD is looking to couple Magny-Cours with its upcoming four- to six-core "Lisbon" Opterons-due in the second quarter-to offer the two-socket server space choices of platforms, and to enable businesses to move into the four-socket server space without the expense of moving to a new platform.
All of those issues, as well as the chipset and socket compatibility with the next generation of server chips that will be based on the "Bulldozer" core, were brought up by a panel of users March 29 after the Magny-Cours chips were released.
All three of the users talked about the compatibility issue being important when picking a server platform because of the time and cost of moving to another platform. Matt Lavallee, director of technology at MLS PIN, said his data center is highly virtualized on Microsoft's Hyper-V technology.
With so many large virtualized clusters, "we can't just bring in a new platform," Lavallee said during the panel discussion, which also was Webcast. "There is some necessary loyalty involved."
Bruce Wright, CTO at Kosmix.com, agreed.
"Architectural stability is one thing that engenders loyalty," Wright said.
The users also talked about the memory capacity, relative low cost as compared with Intel platforms, energy efficiency and the ability to move easily from two- to four-socket systems.
"We have a few 4Ps running, but we mostly have 2Ps," Wright said. "But [with the new Opteron 6000 chips], I'll be planning to buy 4P boxes."