Server Specs: Hardware vendors react to Opteron heat problem

Hardware vendors react to AMD Opteron heat problems; certification isn't what it used to be; and SAP backs Virtual Iron.

Hardware vendors react to AMD Opteron heat problems
Advanced Micro Devices Inc., (AMD) the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker, has reported a heat problem with a small percentage of Opteron processors running under three specific conditions.

It said as many as 3,000 processors at customer locations could be affected, and it will give diagnostic tools to vendors to identify susceptible chips, which AMD would replace for free.

The x52 and x54 processors were manufactured in 2005 and had inconsistent results when put under three simultaneous conditions: elevated CPU temperatures, elevated ambient temperatures and the running of floating point-intensive code sequences.

Under those conditions, less than 1% of the x52 and x54 processors could fail to compute correctly.

Representatives from three major vendors -- IBM, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Sun Microsystems -- said yesterday that they were impressed with AMD's response and were dealing with affected customers.

"Given the information that we've been relayed from AMD, we are not expecting customers to be experiencing this problem today or in the future," said Graham Lovell, Sun senior director of x64 servers. "But this condition has been observed under laboratory tests and needs to be addressed."

Lovell added that the diagnostic tools to identify susceptible chips could test servers from all different vendors so customers could test their systems just once.

In a statement, HP said "AMD is working proactively with HP regarding the installed base of these potentially affected processors, and we are impressed with how seriously and aggressively AMD is addressing this situation." A similar statement from IBM said that it "has taken immediate action with our customers who may be affected and has been working closely with AMD to address this situation."

IT certification isn't what it used to be
A New Canaan, Conn., IT compensation and workforce management research firm has found that certification isn't what it used to be.

Foote Partners LLC last week released its Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index for the first quarter of this year and discovered that IT employers were valuing noncertified skills at a faster clip than certified skills. The data comes from 52,000 IT professionals in 1,820 North American companies and examined their value for 212 different skills and certifications.

While pay for certified skills increased 2.6%, pay for noncertified skills jumped 4.4%. According to the study, workers with certified skills still earn more than uncertified workers. But if the current trend continues, that gap will continue to narrow.

Some noncertified skills that are fast gaining value include networking, e-commerce and enterprise applications development. Certification skills gaining value include programming languages, training and security.

Former Sun executive returns to head software division
Richard Green, a former Sun Microsystems Inc. executive who had left to help a virtualization software startup, has returned to Sun to take on a different executive role.

Green will take over as executive vice president of software for Sun, a slot that CEO Jonathan Schwartz had been handling since John Loiacono left in March. He comes over from San Jose, Calif.-based Cassatt, where he served as executive vice president of products.

Green's return to the software division of Sun comes as the company has been opening up applications, such as its Solaris OS and StarOffice.

There has also been some reported debate within the company about whether to open source Java application software. Supporters say that opening Java will help prevent it from becoming obsolete. Others fear the move would allow competitors to change and turn it into their own marketing tool, taking business away from Sun.

Virtual Iron receives more venture funding
Virtual Iron Software Inc., a Lowell, Mass.-based virtualization software company, announced this week that it has secured venture funding from SAP Ventures, the investment arm of software company SAP. Virtual Iron says it has now received $31.5 million in venture funding from SAP, Goldman Sachs and Intel Capital, the investment arm of chipmaker Intel.

In early April, Virtual Iron released a new version of its virtualization software, which included the open source Xen hypervisor, allowing multiple OSs to run on a single processor.

Research firms such as IDC in Framingham, Mass., and Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., have said that virtualization technology is expanding quickly and will become an integral part of information technology in the next five years.

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