AMD Aims New Opteron Server Chips at the Cloud

AMD's Opteron 4300 and 3300 processors will combine performance and power efficiency for such environments as cloud computing and Web hosting.

Advanced Micro Devices is aiming for cloud providers and smaller businesses with new power-efficient Opteron server chips.

The nine new Opterons, introduced Dec. 4, are based on AMD's new Piledriver architecture and are being targeted at the midrange and entry-level segments for use in servers that can process high levels of Web-based transactions in such environments as cloud computing, virtualized infrastructures and Web hosting, according to company officials.

The Opteron 4300 and 3300 Series chips, which come with up to eight cores, push forward AMD's strategy to gain traction in the highly competitive x86-based server space through better power-per-watt capabilities than processors from rival Intel.

They also play to AMD's initiative to refocus efforts on several areas of the chip market—including dense servers for such environments as cloud computing—as company officials look to put the chip maker on more stable financial footing and reduce its dependence on revenue from the struggling PC market. AMD officials see such small, dense servers as a growth area, as illustrated by their announcement that AMD, which holds less than 5 percent of the x86 server chip market, in 2014 will begin selling chips based on ARM Holdings' power-efficient, non-x86 architecture.

AMD also will leverage its $334 million acquisition earlier this year of SeaMicro, which makes ultra-dense servers. The new chips can be used in AMD's SeaMicro servers.

The new Opterons offer server OEMs and businesses an attractive combination of low prices and power efficiency, according to Suresh Gopalakrishnan, general manager of AMD's Server Business Unit.

"The Piledriver core architecture shared by the AMD Opteron 4300 and 3300 Series processors provides optimized performance, power and price for today's customer," Gopalakrishnan said in a statement. "These new processors are ideal for cloud providers, Web hosts and small- and medium-sized businesses who want to address their space and power constraints. With a simple upgrade, existing customers can obtain more performance and improved energy efficiency, and new customers will obtain compelling value and ROI."

According to AMD, the Opteron 4300 chips offer up to 15 percent improved performance over the previous generation of Opterons, as well as a 24 percent improvement in performance-per-watt. The chips offer speeds of up to 3.4GHz—up to 3.8GHz when using AMD's Turbo Core technology, which enables users to boost the performance of individual cores depending on workload demands.

The chips will consume as few as 35 watts of power, and will come with a number of other power-efficiency capabilities, including AMD-P power-management technology and ultra-low-voltage 1.25V memory.

The Opteron 3300 chips share similar power-management capabilities, as well as the chip maker's AMD-V virtualization technology to help drive down costs for each virtual machine. Those chips have a frequency up to 2.8GHz—up to 3.8GHz when leveraging Turbo Core—and a power envelope as small as 25 watts.

AMD officials also touted the broad software support for the new chips, including support for virtualization hypervisors from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix Systems and Red Hat, operating support for Windows and Linux from SUSE and Red Hat, and various developer tools.

The chips are being used now in the SeaMicro servers and systems from SuperMicro, with more coming from Dell and other OEMs, according to AMD.

Like other tech companies with tight ties to the PC market, AMD has been hit hard by the slowdown in PC sales caused by the rise in popularity of tablets and smartphones and the continued uncertainty in the global economy. In October, CEO Rory Read said that about 85 percent of AMD's revenues come from its PC business; he wants to drop that to about 40 to 50 percent. The company is focusing on particular growth areas, including dense servers, the embedded-device space and ultra-portable computing devices, including tablets and entry-level notebooks.

At the same time, AMD is reducing costs, including announcing in October that it is cutting 15 percent of its workforce, or about 1,770 jobs. In addition, the company said last month that it plans to sell its campus in Austin, Texas, and lease it back, a move that could provide it as much as $200 million in cash.