Advanced Micro Devices on Monday released its fastest chips yet. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company announced the six-core Opteron chips, code-named Istanbul -- a move that pushes the chip manufacturer out in front of server customers.
The six-core processor, considered to be the most efficient processor yet, combines lower costs, higher performance per watt, and more scalability, according to AMD. The processor is for two-, four-, and eight-socket servers.
Server customers, including Dell, HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems, will have access to the six-core AMD processors beginning this month, according to the company. Low- HE, high-power, frequency-optimized SE, and very-low-power EE versions of the processor will be available sometime in the third quarter.
The processor also has 34 percent more performance per watt, reduces probe filter between processors, and increases stream memory and bandwidth by 60 percent.
"Based on close collaboration with our customers, we believe there is a clear value shift changing the economics of the server market," said Patrick Patla, vice president and general manager of AMD's server business.
Timing Off Again?
Unlike AMD's first quad-core processor, Barcelona -- which was six months behind schedule after AMD faced several glitches -- Istanbul surpassed expectations on availability.
In fact, Istanbul is available five months ahead of schedule, according to the company. Its early launch surpasses even the launch of AMD's 45nm Shanghai processor, which was available three months earlier than expected.
AMD had announced Shanghai's availability just as rival was announcing its 45nm Nehalem chip. Now the release of AMD's latest Opteron chip comes just days after Intel announced it would begin production of its eight-core Nehalem-EX processor this year. The Nehalem systems are slated for 2010.
The back-to-back announcements are not surprising: The two rivals are competing to provide more processing power for server customers who want faster ways to keep up with demanding applications, all while saving on cost.
Big Step Forward
"The introduction of six-core Opteron AMD processors is a big step forward for the IT industry," according to Armondo Acosta, product manager of Dell PowerEdge servers. "The really exciting part about this AMD processing technology is we've seen a 61 percent increase in just raw performance, and this is really beneficial to our customers."
On AMD's blog, Acosta said Dell plans to introduce Istanbul in six servers, including the Dell PowerEdge rack servers and three other blade servers.
Intel and AMD are not only competing against each other, they are competing against an unsteady server market.
The x86 server market dropped 28.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to $5.1 billion worldwide, the lowest x86 server revenue since the third quarter 2003, according to IDC. The top-five server vendors all experienced x86 server-revenue declines of 20 percent or more in the quarter. HP, an AMD customer, led the market with 36.5 percent revenue share; and Dell, another AMD customer, retained second place, securing 21.4 percent revenue share.
The good news, however, is that IDC expects x86 systems to rebound the fastest compared to others in the market.
"As you know, the server market is in the middle of a serious contraction, which is driven by customers extending the life cycle of their servers and extending even further into the data center," said Matthew Eastwood, an IDC analyst. "That said, this is a great time for AMD to launch a new platform."
"We expect customers will begin reinvesting in refreshed in late 2009 and early 2010 to prepare for the economic recovery," he added. "It was critical for AMD to demonstrate both their ability to execute and to showcase their technology road map if end users are going to continue to consider their technology as part of this refresh."