AMD Rolls Out 40-Watt Six-Core Opteron

AMD is unveiling a 40-watt version of its six-core "Istanbul" Opteron processor aimed at dense data center environments, cloud computing platforms and Web 2.0 applications, which are looking for greater density and lower power consumption. AMD officials say their strategy differs from that of Intel in that the low-watt Opterons have the same power management and virtualization features that the higher-watt models sport.

Advanced Micro Devices is introducing an energy-efficient EE version of its six-core "Istanbul" Opteron processor.

AMD is targeting its 40-watt Opteron chip at two-socket servers for dense computing environments, cloud computing platforms and Web 2.0 applications, Jeff Jenkins, director of server product marketing at AMD, said in an interview.

"They're looking for price/performance per watt," Jenkins said.

The introduction of the Istanbul EE processor Aug. 31 comes four months after AMD rolled out the 40-watt EE version of its quad-core "Shanghai" chip in April, and joins the 75- and 55-watt versions of Istanbul already on the market.

AMD and its larger rival, Intel, are aggressively pushing increased performance in their newest chips while driving down power consumption. Enterprises are driving the demand for greater energy efficiency in their technology, Jenkins said.

"They need to lower the operational costs ... in their data centers," he said, pointing to the rapidly increasing costs of power and cooling. Last year, businesses worldwide spent more than $30 billion to power and cool their data centers, Jenkins said.

IT administrators expect to spend 27 percent more on power and cooling on servers over the next four years. The new 40-watt six-core processors offer 30 percent more performance and 38 percent more performance per watt over than quad-core Opterons, he said.

For AMD, a key difference is that the company is able to keep the key features-such as its high memory speed, cache, AMD-P power management capabilities and AMD-V virtualization technology-found in the higher-wattage models in the EE version, Brent Kirby, senior product marketing manager, said in an interview. To reach 38 watts in its Xeon L5506 model, Intel needs to reduce its memory speed and bus speed, and remove such features as HyperThreading and Turbo Boost, which dynamically adjusts processor frequency based on demand.

Another key difference is the memory used. Intel uses the more expensive DDR3 memory, Kirby said. AMD currently uses DDR2, arguing that DDR3 is still not mainstream enough and too costly, he said. Memory is a key need in such environments as cloud computing, and cost is an important factor, Kirby said. AMD will make the switch to DDR3 next year, when the cost goes down.

Compute power and density also is important to cloud computing environments. In the same standard rack, businesses using servers powered by the 40-watt EE model-which is shipping now-can increase the density of a standard 42U rack by 40 percent over those using 75-watt Opterons while staying within the same power budget.

The new Opterons are part of a larger strategy that AMD will continue to push in 2010 to build offerings around user workloads and platforms-rather than simply rolling out new chips-all the while keeping focused on power envelopes and price/performance per watts, Kirby said.

"It's more than just throwing processors out there," he said.