AMD Optimizes Opteron

AMD recruits HP and Sun to widen their Opteron-based offerings.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has persuaded three more top OEMs to use the Opteron, but it has a long way to go in persuading many big-enterprise customers to switch from systems that use Intel Corp. processors.

To help make that leap, AMD has laid plans to enhance the processor and at the same time has enlisted server makers Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. to expand their Opteron-based offerings with existing chips.

HP this week will unveil a Linux server cluster that includes the LC3000 Series, which features the Opteron-based two-way ProLiant DL145 server. The cluster is targeted at high-performance computing applications. In addition, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will announce the availability of its ProLiant DL585 system, which features four Opteron processors.

Later this year, HP will ship more blade servers powered by the Opteron, and next year HP will expand its Opteron offerings further, officials said.

Sun this week will roll out an updated Web server reference architecture based on its two-way Sun Fire V20z system, the first of the Opteron servers the company will offer. The Santa Clara, Calif., companys architectures enable users to order pretested and preintegrated systems. The Secure Web Server Reference Architecture will include a pretested offering that includes the V20z, Java System Web Server and hardened Solaris.

AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., has positioned the Opteron as an avenue for enterprises to transition from 32- to 64-bit computing because it does both natively. The Opteron line, which runs from low-power embedded chips to processors for eight-way servers, boasts performance enhancement capabilities such as embedded memory controllers and HyperTransport technology.

AMD engineers are looking to improve the performance of the Opteron even further, from increasing the speed of the embedded memory controller to reducing the latency in the HyperTransport technology, said Ben Williams, vice president of AMDs server and workstation business unit. Later this year, AMD will ramp up the 90-nanometer manufacturing process for the Opteron, which will result in more efficient and less costly manufacturing.

But AMD is most interested in expanding the Opterons footprint into arenas where the chip isnt competing now, such as blade servers and four-way systems, Williams said.

One Opteron user welcomes the addition of four-way Opteron systems because it will enhance the chips main selling point: a better price/performance ratio over Intel systems.

"Boosting up the ... number of processors per cubic inch is definitely helpful while keeping costs down," said Steve Johnson, senior systems analyst for the mathematics department at Texas A&M University, in College Station. "If you can throw a few more processors at a single node, youre going to get an improvement in the price/performance [over clustered two-way systems]." Johnson runs applications on a 128-node cluster made up of Appro International Inc.s two-way Opteron-based HyperBlade systems and said he expects to get a four-way Appro system to test this spring.

Next page: Slow move to 64-bit.