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AMD Updates Opteron As Istanbul Steals Spotlight

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

As AMD’s six-core “Istanbul” Opteron server processor gets the bulk of the publicity, AMD is rolling out additions to its line of quad-core chips

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) officials are keeping the spotlight on the issues of performance per watt and compatibility with their latest quad-core Opteron chip.

The latest Opteron 1000 Series chip, codenamed “Suzuka,” is designed for use in cloud computing environments, web servers, small business servers and workstations, where the concern is more about power consumption and cost rather than scalability, according to John Fruehe, director of business development for server and workstation products at AMD.

“The flexibility of four cores and a low-cost infrastructure gives customers an edge when designing for a cost-effective or power-efficient platform,” Fruehe wrote in the blog.

On the compatibility front, Suzuka — which offers speeds of 2.5GHz, 2.7GHz and 2.9GHz — is based on the same core as “Shanghai”.

Fruehe said he swapped out a 2.3GHz quad-core “Budapest” Opteron with a 2MB cache for a 2.9GHz Suzuka with a 6MB cache in his home server.

“I saw an increase in performance, but amazingly, because Suzuka is on AMD’s 45 [nanometre manufacturing] process, I actually saw a decrease in total server power draw of about 10 watts,” he said . “A performance increase, a big drop in power consumption—that makes the performance-per-watt story even better.”

Fruehe also touted the ease of making the switch; it took about five minutes, he said. The Suzuka chip dropped into the AM2 socket, with the only need being a BIOS flash.

AMD and rival Intel have been pushing new server chips over the past few months. Intel in March released its Xeon 5500 Series “Nehalem EP” chips for two-socket servers, and is readying for release later this year “Nehalem EX” for servers with four sockets.

AMD in June rolled out its six-core “Istanbul” Opteron chip, which can run on servers with two or more sockets. Both AMD and Intel boasted of improved performance and energy efficiency in their new processors, as well as enhanced virtualisation capabilities.

AMD appears to be making some gains. Intel still holds a huge majority of the global microprocessor market, but AMD in the first quarter of this year gained a bit of ground, according to research firm iSuppli. In that quarter, Intel’s market share dropped 2.5 points, to 79.1 percent. AMD’s market share rose 2.3 points, to 12.8 percent.

Analysts at iSuppli attributed AMD’s gain to strong performances in all of its products, particularly notebook chips.