AMD Opteron 3200 Chips Target Cloud, Web Hosting

AMD is offering low-power, low-cost chips for Web hosting and cloud environments, which are looking for high-performance, energy-efficient servers for their data centers.

Advanced Micro Devices is rolling out a low-cost, low-power Opteron chip aimed at Web hosting and cloud computing environments.

The Opteron 3200 family, which is being shown this week at the World Hosting Day event in Germany, is AMD€™s latest effort to gain greater traction in the booming hosting and cloud markets, where businesses are looking for small, good-performing and highly energy-efficient servers.

It also dovetails with AMD€™s announcement last month of its intentions to spend $334 million to buy SeaMicro, which makes microservers using low-power x86-based chips and its own fabric interconnect architecture. SeaMicro currently makes systems using Intel€™s Atom processors, but it€™s expected AMD will migrate them to its own Opteron chips.

The new Opteron 3200 family€”which includes three chips that offer four to eight cores, speeds ranging from 2.7GHz to 3.7GHz, thermal design power of 45 to 65 watts, and various AMD-developed power-saving technologies, such as Turbo Core and PowerNow€”will give Web hosting companies a low-cost option when considering microservers, according to John Fruehe, director of product marketing for AMD€™s server group.

Web hosting companies buy and host servers. The hosting companies run the servers in their own data centers so customers don€™t have to worry about operating or maintaining the systems themselves. The customers pay a monthly fee for a dedicated server, so for the hosting companies, the faster those monthly fees cover the capital cost of the server, the faster they can make money from them.

€œIt really is a matter of economics,€ Fruehe told eWEEK. €œIn the hosting world, economics rule the day.€

Because of that, many hosting companies will opt for systems powered by lower-cost PC chips, which don€™t offer all the enterprise-class server features that Opterons do. The Opteron 3200 chips, which range in price from $99 to $229, give the hosting companies and cloud computing environments a new option, he said. By comparison, according to Fruehe, Intel chips start at $189.

The Web hosting and cloud space accounts for about 15 percent of total server revenues worldwide, and it€™s also the fastest-growing segment of the market, he said.

€œThere is a lot of opportunity,€ Fruehe said. €œIn this IT-less world [of small and midsized businesses], servers are not disappearing. They€™re just moving out of the business and into hosted data centers.€

AMD already has begun shipping the Opteron 3200 to systems makers, with platforms coming out from the likes of Dell, Fujitsu, MSI and Tyan. He said AMD chose the World Hosting Day event on March 20 as the place to announce the chips.

The Web hosting and cloud space is getting a lot of attention from chip and server makers. Intel already had been pushing the microserver segment€”including through its partnership with SeaMicro. However, after AMD announced its deal to buy the systems maker, Intel officials dismissed its importance, noting its own internal work as well as partnerships with the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Supermicro, NEC, Dell and Hitachi. Analysts also said recent Intel acquisitions of networking vendors give it the expertise to develop its own low-power fabric technology.

€œIntel is also likely disappointed [with the AMD-SeaMicro deal], but its 2011 acquisition of 10GbE [10 Gigabit Ethernet] player Fulcrum Microsystems and increasing focus on robust networking solutions means that Intel may be able to respond with a competitive high-performance fabric technology far sooner than many assume,€ Pund-IT Research principal analyst Charles King wrote in a report earlier this month.

In addition, ARM Holdings€”whose low-power non-x86 chip designs are found in most smartphones and tablets€”and manufacturing partners such as Calxeda, Nvidia and Marvell Technology are working to push the architecture up the ladder and into low-power servers. HP already is working with Calxeda to develop ARM-based energy-efficient servers as part of its Project Moonshot initiative.

AMD€™s Fruehe said offerings like the Opteron 3200 chips give his company an edge over both Intel and ARM. The platform makes AMD a better cost alternative to Intel, he said, while ARM designs still lack certain enterprise-level features€”including 64-bit capabilities and a strong server ecosystem€”that both AMD and Intel offer.