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.