AMD Set to Launch New Opteron

The chip maker hopes that the enhanced server processor will help it keep its momentum against rival Intel.

Advanced Micro Devices is gearing up for the August launch of its next-generation Opteron server processor, another dual-core chip that will offer greater memory and virtualization features.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company will roll out the processor later in August, according to spokesman Phil Hughes. He declined to be more specific on the date, but said reports that the launch is set for Aug. 1 were unfounded.

The new Opteron, referred to internally as "Rev F," will offer support for faster DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory, an updated on-board memory controller and AMDs on-chip virtualization technology, formerly known as "Pacifica."

Like that of rival Intels virtualization feature, the AMD technology will take some of the work now done by software from vendors like VMware, which will make the virtualized environment more secure.

The new chip also will come with a new socket, called "AM2."

AMD is looking to the next Opteron family to continue its momentum, especially at a time when rival Intel is rapidly rolling out new server chips and both companies are gearing for the next battleground—quad-core processors.

Intel, which initially planned to launch quad-core chips early next year, announced that it will now release them by the end of this year. AMD is scheduled to release its quad-core chips next year.

According to Mercury Research, Opteron accounted for 22.1 percent of all x86 processors sold. Over the past few years, AMD has been able to gain share by beating Intel in a number of crucial areas, including x64 support, dual core and power efficiency.

The result has been wider adoption by systems makers, including all four top-tier OEMs. Both Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems are growing extensive Opteron-based server lineups, and IBM also has several AMD offerings.

AMD also saw a huge boost in May, when Dell—which for several years said it was sticking with its Intel-only portfolio—announced it will release an Opteron-based server by the end of 2006.

Intel has responded to AMDs growth by relying less on chip speed and more on other features—such as virtualization and multiple cores—to increase performance while reducing power consumption.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about how AMD dropped its second-quarter sales foecast.

Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., is in the midst of what Pat Gelsinger, executive vice president and general manager of the companys Digital Enterprise Group, called the "summer of servers," a revamping of its entire server chip portfolio.

Since May, Intel has released two new dual-core Xeon processors—including the highly-touted "Woodcrest" 5100 series—and on July 18 rolled out its latest Itanium 2 9000 series processor family, codenamed "Montecito."

CEO Paul Otellini said on July 19 that "Tulsa," the next generation of its Xeon MP chip for servers running four or more processors, will come out in the third quarter, though Intel already has begun shipping the chip for revenue.

However, Intel still has its share of challenges. The company reported disappointing second-quarter earnings July 19, and soon after announced to employees that it was shaking up its upper management tier.

That came a week after Intel announced July 13 it was eliminating about 1,000 management jobs.

The changes were part of an aggressive internal operations review overseen by Otellini.

AMD is scheduled to announce its second-quarter earnings July 20.

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