AMD releases dual-core Opteron processors

AMD announced Thursday the immediate availability of its dual core Opteron processors, the first to market in the x86 server space.

In its latest effort to establish itself as a major player in the x86 server market, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Advanced Micro Devices Inc. released its first batch of dual core Opteron processors Thursday, which it said will increase computing capacity without putting additional strain on power requirements.

Multi-core processors use an integrated circuit (IC) to which two or more processors have been attached for enhanced performance, reduced power consumption and more efficient simultaneous processing of multiple tasks. A dual core setup is somewhat comparable to having multiple, separate processors installed in the same computer, but because the two processors are actually plugged into the same socket, the connection between them is faster.

According to AMD, the dual-core chips, a first for the x86 space, represent anywhere from a 30% to 90% performance increase over single core counterparts. But the new processors won't cause users any additional cooling headaches because they will sit in the same thermal envelope and run on a lower frequency.

AMD's announcement comes on the heels of rival Intel Corp.'s release of a dual-core processor for the high-end desktop. Intel is reported to release a dual-core offering for the x86 market later this year and early 2006.

AMD had originally planned to launch its dual-core server offering in mid-2005, but opted to push up the date.

According to Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT Research in Hayward, Calif., this release is the latest indication of AMD's proactive approach toward introducing 64-bit technology in the x86 space, and its intent to put Intel on notice.

"I think it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to dual core … in a way you can measure AMD's success by how proactive Intel has been in trying to undercut it," King said. "AMD is maintaining its technology lead over what Intel is doing."

The dual-core chips will be compatible with existing single core infrastructures, and AMD said integrating the two will require nothing more than a simple BIOS flash for users operating boards 90 nanometers and up, because both the single- and dual-core chips have the same 940 pin socket.

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According to the company, the dual core Opteron processor is the perfect blend of performance and density, addressing a huge concern for data center managers and high-end workstation customers -- performance per watts -- without making their existing server farms any hotter than they already are.

"Heating concerns are irrelevant because it's the same power draw," said Gina Longoria, product manager for the AMD Opteron 200 series. "The benefits of the additional core far outweigh the lower frequency of dual core. There will be a huge performance boost within the same power envelope."

According to Tony Lock, chief analyst with Bloor Research in England, because a multi-core chip is attractive to data center managers, most of the major processing suppliers are working to develop similar technology.

"They offer more processing power for less energy and less space. There will be an increase in demand for servers that make use of this architecture," Lock said. "[Offering] more processing power without the need for extra cooling, extra electricity and the costs that go with all that is a major benefit."

Dual-core processors are available immediately for three of AMD's 800 series models -- 865, 870 and 875 -- and the company will unveil dual-core processors for the 265, 270 and 275 in late May.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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