AMD Launches Opteron 6200, 4200 'Bulldozer'-Based Server Chips

AMD, after some delays, is finally launching its "Interlagos" and "Valencia" Opteron processors, and will show them off at the SC 11 supercomputing show.

SEATTLE-Advanced Micro Devices is launching its long-awaited "Bulldozer" core-based Opteron server chips that officials say will offer the performance and scalability demanded in virtualized data centers and the energy efficiency needed for cloud environments.

AMD began shipping the 16-core Opteron 6200 "Interlagos" chips in September, but waited until Nov. 14 to officially announce the availability of both the Opteron 6200 and the eight-core Opteron 4200 "Valencia" processors. The company is hosting a launch celebration during the SC 11 supercomputer show here Nov. 14.

AMD last week unveiled a program-Ready Solutions for servers-designed to offer a wide range of motherboards compatible with the Opteron 6200 chips to quicken adoption of the processors. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer are expected to quickly roll out systems with the new processors, and SuperMicro on Nov. 14 announced several systems powered by the Interlagos chips. Cray officials last month announced they are going to upgrade the Jaguar supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory into Titan, which will include the Opteron 6200s.

In addition, Appro officials said they will be rolling out two- and four-socket systems powered by the new Interlagos chips later this year and in early 2012. They also will be demonstrating the systems at the SC 11 show.

According to AMD officials, virtualization and cloud computing are the driving forces in the server space, and both demand high performance and scalability combined with increasingly low power consumption. The Bulldozer chips offer up to 84 percent more performance, 25 to 30 percent more speed and 73 percent more memory bandwidth than their 12-core predecessors, while requiring half the power per core, two-thirds less floor space and up to two-thirds lower platform price, they said. They consume up to 46 percent less energy while at idle.

"On price/performance per watt, we should be in really good shape," John Fruehe, director of product marketing for server/workstation products at AMD, said in an interview with eWEEK.

The Bulldozer-based chips offer a number of performance and energy-efficiency improvements, including the ability to run more floating point operations while drawing lower power, enhanced Turbo Core technology that can improve clock speed for the individual cores, and TDP Power Capping technology, which will enable users to reduce power usage without impacting performance.

The Opteron 6200 and 4200 chips come at an important time for AMD. The company has been losing ground to larger rival Intel in the server business, with its market share dropping to well under 10 percent, according to market research firms Gartner and IDC. AMD's weakening position in the server space was reportedly one of the key areas of disagreement between the board of directors and Dirk Meyer, who resigned as CEO in January. Intel is readying the official launch of its upcoming Xeon E5 server chip, which will offer up to eight cores and-like AMD's chips-at the high-performance computing (HPC) and cloud environments.

At the same time, both AMD and Intel are going to face competition from ARM Holdings and its manufacturing partners-including Nvidia, Calxeda and Marvell Technologies-which are looking to leverage the low-power capabilities in the chips they put into smartphones and tablets to move into servers.

AMD, which in September named Lenovo President Rory Read as its new CEO, also is restructuring its business, including laying off 10 percent of its workforce, as it looks to focus its efforts on low-power computing, emerging markets and the cloud.