AMD Completes Opteron Portfolio

The chip maker is now shipping quad-core processors for high-end four- and eight-way servers.

Advanced Micro Devices is rounding out its quad-core Opteron portfolio with new chips designed for high-end four-socket and eight-socket servers.

The chip maker will start shipping two more processors in its 2300 series and an additional two for the 8300 series June 9. Since January, AMD has been looking to make up the ground it lost in 2007 when the first batch of quad-core Opterons were found to have a design flaw in the silicon.

Since then, the AMD quad-core Opteron, or "Barcelona," processor has been picked up by all four tier one OEMs and a number of small server vendors. The company has also started shipping Opterons for lower-end one-socket systems.

The new processors include the Opteron 2358 SE (2.4GHz) and the Opteron 2360 SE (2.5GHz), along with the Opteron 8358 SE (2.4GHz) and the 8360 SE (2.5GHz). Each of the chips will contain the same 512KB of Level 2 cache per core as all the other Opteron processors, and all four cores will share 2MB of L3 cache.

All four processors will work with a 95-watt thermal envelope.

While AMD has released Opteron chips for MP (multiprocessor) servers before, Steve Demski, an AMD marketing manager, said these new chips are specially designed for customers building high-performance computing environments running applications that require floating-point calculations. Demski also sees a market for businesses looking to run database or other backend applications on x86 hardware, as opposed to a mainframe or Unix-based system.

"The guys that are looking to by the SE series are looking for maximum performance," said Demski. "What we are talking about is scaling up. In the past, you might need a mainframe or a high-end Unix box, and we now believe that we are providing that same level of performance with these four- and eight-socket systems. The difference is that the cost of the hardware and the cost of the system are much reduced."

The chips that AMD will ship June 9 represent some of the company's last 65-nanometer models for servers before the company switches to a new 45-nm manufacturing process later this year. Those processors, dubbed "Shanghai," will offer a bump in clock speed-perhaps by as much as 20 percent at the launch as the company tries to keep up with Intel-while keeping the thermal envelopes the same.

The MP space is important to AMD as it provides good margins for their products. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM and Sun Microsystems are each expected to release servers built around the new SE models.

For years, AMD had an advantage in this market, compared with Intel, with chip technologies such as integrated memory controller, which allows for better bandwidth. Intel plans to update it offering for the MP space later this year with a new chip calledDunnington, which will have six processing cores and 16MB of L3 cache.

After Dunnington, Intel will release its Nehalem microarchitecture, which will be the first chips to offer the company's own integrated memory controller as well as other new features.

The prices for the new Opteron models are $873 for the 2358 SE, $1,165 for the 2360 SE, $1,865 for the 8358 SE and $2,149 for the 8360 SE. These prices reflect shipments of 1,000 units.