AMD Moves Opteron to Dual-Core

The chip maker rolls out its first dual-core Opterons for servers running four or more chips. Dual-core PC chips are set for a June release.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. over the next two months will bring dual-core capabilities to many of its processors, starting Thursday when it rolls out the first of its dual-core Opterons for servers running four or more chips.

AMD officials will gather in New York Thursday to mark the second anniversary of the 64-bit Opteron and will use the event to usher in the first of its dual-core chips.

The chip maker will be joined by its top OEM partners, who will announce a host of new servers and workstations that they will roll out over the next few months.

AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., on Thursday will launch three models in its 800 line, for high-end systems running four or more chips—the 1.8GHz Model 865, 2GHz 870 and 2.2GHz 875, according to Ben Williams, vice president for commercial business at AMD.

In addition, company officials will announce that three versions in its 200 series—the 1.8GHz 265, 2GHz 270 and 2.2GHz 275—will be released next month, Williams said. In June, AMD will bring dual-core capabilities to its Athlon 64 processors for desktop and mobile PCs, he said.

The dual-core PC chips will come under the brand name Athlon 64 X2. The June launch of the 4200+, 4400+, 4600+ and 4800+ will be accompanied by product rollouts of PCs and desktop-replacement notebooks from several OEMs, according to AMD.

The announcements come a week after rival Intel Corp. announced it had begun shipping dual-core versions of its chip for high-end desktops and workstations, the 3.2GHz Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840. Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., will launch its next family of dual-core processors, the Pentium D, for PCs next month. Dual-core capabilities in its server chips, Itanium and Xeon, will begin appearing late this year and early 2006.

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Dual-core chips offer two processing cores on a single die, essentially enabling a two-way system to perform as a four-way. The benefits of dual-core processing primarily are felt by multithreaded applications, which are most common in the server and workstation space, according to analysts.

"Dual-core most directly benefits the server side of things in the near term because server applications are more likely be multithreaded, more so than PC applications," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, in Nashua N.H.

Williams said AMDs chips are designed to accelerate the adoption of dual-core computing. The chips fit into the same space and power envelope as the current single-core Opterons, with the pricing essentially the same. Users can switch out the single-core chips for the multicore versions, with the only adjustment needed being a BIOS update, Williams said.

He said he expects performance increases of 30 percent to 70 percent once dual-core chips are installed.

"Our dual-core implementation is really more like a processor upgrade than an architectural upgrade," Williams said.

Next Page: HP, Sun and IBM ready dual-core systems.