Advanced Micro Devices has unveiled an ambitious microprocessor road map that has the chip company rolling out its six-core "Istanbul" processor for large-scale server systems in June, as well as new microprocessor and platform updates for 2010 and 2011.
In addition to Istanbul, AMD plans in the next two years to offer a range of new platforms and processors for servers that will allow the chip company to take more advantage of virtualization and that technology's increasing importance to the data center.
Finally, in 2011, AMD plans to unveil a 32-nanometer server chip that uses a new microarchitecture called "Bulldozer." AMD plans to offer this "Interlagos" processor with 12 and 16 processing cores. A second 32-nm chip called "Valencia" offers either six or eight processing cores.
All these additions to AMD's server chip road map were announced April 22, the sixth anniversary of AMD's Opteron processor. When the original single- and dual-core versions of Opteron were released, the chip allowed AMD to better compete against Intel, especially within the multisocket server market.
AMD originally told customers that Istanbul would hit the market in the second half of 2009. Now, AMD is planning to start sending out the chip in May with server systems from OEMs to follow in June.
The AMD road map also comes at a time when the company finds itself at a crossroads. On April 21, AMD posted another quarterly loss as both enterprise customers and consumers cut back on their purchases of PCs and server systems.
At the same time, AMD has just spun off its manufacturing facilities into a new company. Meanwhile, Intel plans to offer a new line of Xeon chips for servers based on the company's "Nehalem" architecture.
"AMD is letting server customers know that it continues to be a competitor in the market [after] the launch of Xeon 5500," John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote in an e-mail. "It's doing that by unveiling a number of details about its Opteron road map, both in the near term and the long term."
In addition to new chips, AMD detailed what it calls the 2.0 version of its Direct Connect Architecture, which improves memory and bandwidth by directly connecting memory and I/O to the CPU and by directly connecting CPUs to one another. In the 2.0 version, AMD will offer a four-channel integrated memory controller rather than the current two-channel version.
In addition, Direct Connect Architecture 2.0 will offer four HyperTransport links-this is AMD's chip-to-chip interconnect technology-instead of the three links found in the current form of the technology.
Direct Connect Architecture 2.0 is being offered with an upcoming 12-core processor called "Magny-Cours." Direct Connect Architecture 2.0, combined with improvements to AMD's virtualization and power consumption technologies, should help the company when it comes to competing with Intel in the multisocket server market, especially as companies look for energy efficiency and the most processing power for their money.
"In the near term, what I think AMD is doing is offering up a greater energy efficiency as well as larger number of cores for what I suspect will be competitive pricing," wrote Spooner. "Therefore it's saying, 'We've got more energy efficiency and we can offer you more cores [per] dollar than Intel!' to the end customer."
In 2010, AMD plans to ship its Opteron 6000 series chips for two- and four-socket servers. The server platform, called "Maranello," supports the Magny-Cours processor and the G34 socket. In addition, AMD plans to ship the Opteron 4000 series for one- and two-socket systems. This platform, called "San Marino," supports the C32 socket and uses four- and six-core chips codenamed Lisbon.