Advanced Micro Devices has taken the wraps off its first energy-efficient x86 server chips featuring four processing cores and a low 55-watt thermal envelope. The five new Opteron HE processors for blade and rack systems are all targeted at the
data center, noted Randy Allen, AMD's server and workstation division manager.
"These new processors, which feature AMD's advanced power management and virtualization innovations, offer a compelling platform for power-conscious data center managers who are changing the way they think about performance" and "see power consumption and virtualization as the keys to solving their overall performance equation," Allen said.
An Important Metric
AMD's new energy-efficient quad-core chips are available for two-, four- and eight-way rack servers and blades. According to company executives, the chips have already set new performance records among comparable x86 energy-efficient processors.
Matthew Wilkins, a principal analyst at semiconductor research firm iSuppli, noted that energy efficiency has become an important metric of any microprocessor, regardless of whether it is used in a desktop PC, notebook or server. "For example, having a power-efficient multicore processor in a notebook PC ultimately equates to longer battery life, which vastly improves the laptop's value proposition," Wilkins said.
Last month AMD introduced two 45-watt Athlon processors for desktop PCs. The company's latest quad-core server chips round out the chipmaker's microprocessor lineup to cover all three of its power-efficient computing bases.
"Data centers consume an awful lot of energy -- not only in terms of the servers themselves, but also because of the associated cooling infrastructure," Wilkins said. "All of these energy costs can add up to a lot of money, so anything that can be done to reduce the costs of running a data center is certainly a very worthwhile development."
Both Intel and AMD are committed to advancing multi-core technology. Earlier this month, AMD updated its multi-core server microprocessor road map to meet manufacturers' demand for greater performance per watt and more advanced virtualization features, Allen said.
AMD's first server chip made in the more power-efficient 45nm process, code-named Shanghai, is on track to begin production in the second half of this year. A six-core server chip, dubbed Istanbul, is scheduled for delivery in the second half of next year.
Then in the first half of 2010, AMD intends to introduce its first third-generation Opteron processors with DDR3 memory capabilities. The six-core and 12-core Opteron processors are code-named Sao Paulo and Magny Cours, respectively.
However, Wilkins points out that the multi-core processor era has only just begun and it will take some time for developers to catch up. "Independent software vendors are likewise in the early days of figuring out how to run their applications on these multi-core chips," Wilkins said.
Multi-core processors are capable of delivering higher levels of performance, Wilkins observed, but they also increase the performance demands placed on the software they run. "Over the next couple of years we will see software written in a way that makes it possible for it to run on all six or 12 cores of a processor simultaneously, taking full advantage of the potential performance improvements," Wilkins said.