AMD officials downplayed Intel's announcement of Nehalem. Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions at AMD, acknowledged in an interview days before the Intel launch that the improved hyperthreading capabilities and the integrated memory controller in the Xeon 5500 series were a "big tech change" for Intel.
However, Lewis emphasized that AMD has had an integrated memory controller in Opteron for six years, and stressed what she called a "very stable" road map that includes moving to the six-core "Istanbul" chip this year and a new platform starting next year.
The platform will include four memory channels; the 5500 series currently includes three, and the two previous Opterons-"Barcelona" and the current "Shanghai"-offer two.
AMD is not the only competitor underwhelmed by Intel's announcement. Officials at SiCortex, which makes its own energy-efficient high-performance computers, argued that while Nehalem may improve performance, energy efficiency will suffer. Intel upgraded memory performance with the integrated memory controller, but will suffer in clock speed and I/O capabilities, they said.
That said, users are looking forward to what the Nehalem architecture can do.
Jevin Jensen, senior director of IS technical services for carpet company Mohawk Industries, said the moves Intel made to the new architecture are attractive.
"I am especially pleased to see they have added the memory controller into the CPU, like AMD has had for a while," Jensen said.
However, he said Mohawk would have to wait until the model for four-socket systems is released before standardizing on Nehalem. Mohawk has standardized on four-socket systems for its VMware and database servers, which is its most common requirement for enterprise business applications currently.
Analysts are split on how quickly they see the Nehalem EP systems being adopted. Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, said the 5500 series hits the sweet spot-the two-socket systems-of a server market that, while hampered by the global recession, is still seeing businesses buying hardware.
In a blog March 30, Forrester Research analyst James Staten wrote that the enhancements Intel made to the architecture are significant, but that the real selling point is the return on investment through increased server consolidation.
"While it may sound counterintuitive in a cash crunch economy like today's to be recommending the purchase (and accelerated purchasing) of new IT equipment, remember that for every less efficient server you remove from your environment, you end a support contract, free up admin time, recoup power and rack capacity, reduce the consumption of OS licenses and thus bring down overall TCO," Staten wrote.
However, Technology Business Research's Spooner was less optimistic that businesses would quickly buy new Nehalem-powered servers.
"It's going to be slowed by the economy," said Spooner, pointing out that the expected life cycle of servers is growing from three years to four or five. The cost of acquisition "is tough. ... If I can spend $5,000 to $10,000 on a machine-even though it uses less power-do I even have the money in my budget for it? For many companies, the answer is -no.'"