AMD Offers Low-Power Opteron Processors

Updated: Continuing its pricing battle with rival Intel, AMD is also offering lower prices for the newest upgrades to its server processors.

Advanced Micro Devices, the worlds second-largest maker of PC and server processors, is looking to offer new, lower power-per-watt configurations in its dual-core Opteron server chip line.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., chip maker will release the new power-per-watt configurations, along with new pricing, on Feb. 7, company officials said. They said the new thermal envelopes, combined with a reduced price, will offer the companys users a better performance per dollar.

The better-performing chips and new prices are a result of AMDs ongoing battle with Intel as it tries to carve out a bigger position in the x86 server market. Although a Jan. 30 report by Mercury Research showed that AMD had gained some additional market share during the last quarter of 2006, Intel gained back some of the ground it lost in the server market, thanks to its dual-core Woodcrest and quad-core Clovertown processors.

When AMD released its own quarterly financial numbers on Jan. 23, the company showed a significant increase in its shipments of mobile and desktop chips, but its server processor sales were flat.

Some analysts suspect that the price war between Intel and AMD has taken its toll on both companies, but Intel has been able to benefit from the availability of its dual- and quad-core chips, while AMD has chosen to stick to its original timetable for the release of its quad-core processor, code-named Barcelona.

AMD said it is hoping that Barcelonas "native" design—four cores fused together on a piece of silicon, as opposed to Intels quad-core, which ties two Woodcrest processors together on a silicon wafer—will improve its sales.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about AMDs quad-core processor, "Barcelona."

Until Barcelona is released in the middle of 2007, AMD will rely on its dual-core Opteron chips. Opteron has helped AMD gain market share in the x86 server space since it was released in 2003. The chip was the first x86 processor that could handle 64-bit workloads, and later the first to come with dual cores.

Under the new power envelope configurations that AMD plans on releasing Feb. 7, the Opteron 8220 F socket—a socket secures a processor to a computers main circuit board—and the Opteron 2220 F socket, both of which are clocked at 2.8GHz, will drop from 120 watts of power per chip to 95 watts. The Opteron 1220, an AM2 socket, 2.8GHz processor, will drop from 125 watts to 103 watts.

AMD will also introduce two other models, the Opteron 8218 and 2218 HE—both clocked at 2.6GHz—that will drop their power envelopes from 95 to 68 watts. The HE designates a processor with better power efficiency.

Finally, the company will roll out five other dual-core Opterons—Opteron 1218, 1216, 1214, 1212 and 1210 HE—with an improved performance of 65 watts. The older models in this series have power envelopes of 103 watts.

AMD is also scheduled to announce new pricing with the release of these chips. The prices on these chips will mirror the prices of older processors, according to AMD officials. This means customers and vendors will be able to purchase more power-efficient chips for the same price as previous models.

For example, the Opteron 8220 will be priced at $1,514 per 1,000 units shipped. That is the same list price AMD used on Oct. 30 for the Opteron 8218. When the prices are announced Feb. 7, the older model will drop to $1,165 per 1,000 units shipped.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about Intels launch of its quad-core chips.

The Opteron 2220 will be priced at $698 and the 1220 model will be priced at $545 per 1,000 units shipped. The 8218 and 2218 HE models will be priced at $1,340 and $611 respectively.

Lastly, the new 1218, 1216, 1214, 1212 and 1110 HE models will have a price range of between $432 and $168 per 1,000 units shipped. The older processor models in that line will have a pricing range of $318 to $149, according to AMDs latest figures.

In addition to the new pricing and thermal envelope improvement, AMD has tried to show the benefits of its dual-core Opterons over Intels Xeons.

By using new benchmarks devised by SPEC (Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation), AMD officials said they demonstrated that the Opterons performance is superior. In one test, the SPECfp, a dual-core Opteron 2220 running on a two-way Tyan Thunder n4250 server outperformed a dual-core Xeon 5160 being run on an FSC Celsius R640 server, with scores of 48.3 percent and 42.5 percent respectively, according to results provided by AMD.

Another test, the SPECint, compared a dual-core Opteron 8220 on a four-way Sun Blade x8420 server, which received a performance rating of 80.4 percent, with a dual-core Xeon on a four-way IBM System x 3800, which offered a 64.8 percent performance.

In an e-mail message to eWEEK, AMD officials attributed the results to the companys Direct Connect Architecture, which is meant to improve memory and bandwidth in the chip by directly connecting memory and I/O to the CPU. It also directly connects CPUs to one another.

"The performance strengths of AMD Opteron result from our Direct Connect Architecture, which integrates the memory controller on each CPU die and utilizes high-speed HyperTransport technology links to connect CPUs and I/O," AMD said.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information about the SPEC benchmarks.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.