Advanced Micro Devices is poised to officially release the new 45-nanometer version of its Opteron processor line-formerly called “Shanghai”-Nov. 13, and AMD plans to emphasize the chip’s energy efficiency traits and its ability to handle virtualization workloads.
When Shanghai launches during the company’s annual meeting with financial analysts Nov. 13, AMD will bring a total of nine new Opteron processors into the market for two- and four-way server systems. The clock speeds will fluctuate from 2.3GHz on the low end to 2.7GHz on the high end.
The prices for the new 45-nm Opterons will range from $377 for low-end parts to $2,149 for high-end chips. AMD is also planning to keep the pricing aggressive, especially compared with the previous generation of 65-nm Opteron processors. For example, the newer Opteron 8380 chip running at 2.5GHz is priced at $1,514, which is the same price as the older 65-nm Opteron 8356 processor running at 2.3GHz.
All prices are calculated in quantities of 1,000-unit shipments.
The new 45-nm Opteron processor lineup will include five chips for two-socket servers: the Opteron 2384 (2.7GHz), Opteron 2382 (2.6GHz,) Opteron 2380 (2.5GHz), Opteron 2378 (2.4GHz) and Opteron 2376 (2.3GHz). The prices for these chips will range from $989 to $377.
For four-way and eight-way systems, AMD will offer four new Opterons: the Opteron 8384 (2.7GHz), Opteron 8382 (2.6GHz), Opteron 8380 (2.5GHz) and Opteron 8378 (2.4GHz). The prices for these microprocessors range from $2,149 to $1,165.
In addition to shrinking the die size from 65 nm to 45 nm, which allows AMD to make smaller chips that use less power and enables the company to manufacture the processors at a lower cost, AMD has included a number of new features in Shanghai. These include 6MB of Level 3 cache that all four cores share. In addition, all four processing cores will each have 512KB of dedicated L2 cache. The new Opterons also include some AMD standards, such as the integrated memory controller and support for DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory.
Since the first of these Opteron processors are slated for two- and four-way systems, AMD is planning to emphasize the chips’ ability to handle virtualization. In addition to the technology found with its AMD-V offering, the company is adding features such as Rapid Virtualization Indexing, which uses hardware to manage the virtual memory, and Tagged TLB (Translation Lookaside Buffer), which allows for faster switching between virtual machines.
AMD is also increasing the processors’ ability to move virtual machines between physical servers that use different generations of Opteron processors. Intel, which released its six-core 7400 series Xeon processors in September, also included a similar feature.
“They [AMD] are positioning it [Shanghai] as a virtualization server, which I think is smart because they are not just coming out with an iron story, saying we have great performance or we finally made it to 45-nanometer,” said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. “By talking about optimizing the chip for virtualization, they can talk about it as a chip for the data center of the future.”
Matt Lavallee, director of technology for MLS Property Information Network, a real-estate property listing service in Shewsbury, Mass., said his company has been using AMD Opteron processors for a number of years. However, Lavallee said that he has been using Opteron in combination with Hewlett-Packard’s eight-socket ProLiant DL 785 servers to support the company’s Web infrastructure as well as virtualization and consolidation projects.
While Lavallee said he saw AMD take a fair share of criticism for the problems associated with the 65-nm Opteron chip, he said he still remains impressed with Opteron’s architecture, especially its AMD-V virtualization technology and features such as HyperTransport interconnect. When the 45-nm Opteron processors are released, Lavallee said he plans to have HP upgrade his company’s servers to the new processor.
“We really appreciate the architecture, and I think features like the HyperTransport make for a much more fluid design, and the ability to drop in and replace processors is huge,” said Lavallee. “That’s where Shanghai plays in. We have this beautiful infrastructure based on Barcelona, and so next year, when we start looking at loads and where we want to reprovision things, we can take out Barcelona and put in Shanghai and not have to change the infrastructure.”
Emphasis on Power Efficiency
Besides virtualization, AMD is also placing a great deal of emphasis on the power efficiency of the 45-nm Opteron processors. The die shrink from 65 nm to 45 nm will help reduce the power the processors use, and there are other technologies, such as independent control of each processing core, that should further reduce power consumption.
The nine Opteron processors AMD is releasing Nov. 13 will all work within a 75-watt thermal envelope. In the first quarter of 2009, AMD will follow with low-watt parts-55 watts and high-watt processors that run at 105 watts.
While the launch of the new Opteron processor is a significant milestone for AMD, it also marks a time when the company can begin talking about a new product instead of its inability to bring its 65-nm Opteron processor-formerly “Barcelona”-to market in 2007.
To help with the transition, AMD will use the same socket-Socket F (1207)-that was used with the 65-nm Opteron processor, and system vendors can incorporate Shanghai into their servers through a BIOS upgrade. AMD has also made sure that several of the larger OEMs-Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard-have new server systems ready to go at launch. A number of smaller vendors, including Appro, Verari Systems and Rackable Systems, are also offering support.
“Clearly with Barcelona we had our challenges and time to market was an issue, and there was a lot of speculation going around that asked if we had lost credibility and could we not make chips,” Kevin Knox, vice president of AMD’s Commercial Business, said in an interview. “We think Shanghai answers all those questions. … What Shanghai does is take Barcelona to the next level, and what is interesting when you look at the current economic situation, a lot of the features and benefits of Shanghai we think will hit home.”
The first server systems from OEMs that use these Shanghai processors should begin appearing either later this month or in early December. After that, AMD will release processors for single-socket systems under the code name “Suzuka.”
When these new AMD-based systems hit the market, they will compete against the current crop of servers that use Intel’s quad-core Xeon processors that are also built on 45-nm manufacturing. Kay believes AMD will not compare these processors to Intel’s six-core 7400 series Xeon processors until AMD releases its own six-core chip called “Istanbul” in 2009.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify the amount of L2 cache the 45-nm Opteron processor uses with each processing core.