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AMD ships 12-core x86 Opteron processor

While AMD has not announced its 12-core x86 Opteron "Magny Cours" processor, the chips are already shipping.

While AMD has not officially announced its 12-core x86 Opteron processor, dubbed "Magny Cours," the chips are already shipping.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chipmaker was set to announce the new chip by the end of March. But according to John Fruehe, the director of product marketing for server and workstation products at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), it's already available to select customers. AMD has "had a few select end customer opportunities that have been fulfilled, but it is nothing we can talk about publicly," Fruehe wrote on the AMD at Work blog.

But when a reseller offered up the 12-core chip on eBay last week, AMD's hand was forced to make the disclosure, Fruehe wrote.

Mark Rode, the owner of the reseller, Oakville Mehlville, said that regarding the chip, there's not too much he can comment on, other than that AMD told him he's not allowed to ship systems with the new Opteron until the end of March. That means the end of the first quarter, which is the deadline AMD set for itself to announce the chip.

"Right now I don't have any pre-sales orders yet," he said. "Some people overseas are interested -- some of my clients."

Oakville Mehlville's Web site -- which Rode admitted just setting up in past last week -- offers two products on its list: a Tyan VX50 5U chassis with four 6100 series 12-core Opterons that includes up to 256 GB of double data rate (DDR3) memory; and a TYAN TX46 2U chassis with 6100 series 8- or 12-core Opterons and similar memory capacity.

Rode added that he is part of the AMD Fusion Partner Program. He said that the motherboard for the system is still in testing, and he can't build the systems until he gets the motherboard anyway.

In his blog post, Fruehe described the fabrication process.

"The wafers begin life as nondescript silicon, but over the weeks of the process, the eight- and 12-core "Magny-Cours" begin to take shape," he wrote. "After the wafers are finished, they head on to Penang, Malaysia for packaging before the final stop in Singapore. There, the test, marking and sort happens, with processors ending up in those trays that you've seen so often."

AMD, whose Opteron dual-core chip once accounted for about one-quarter of the x86 server market in 2006, has seen its market share dwindle. According to IDC, it held 14.4% market share in the server and workstation market in mid-2008. But IDC's numbers for the third quarter of 2009 indicate that AMD's share in that segment had decreased to 9.6%.

The 12-core Magny-Cours processor is expected in March, and AMD plans to follow it with the release of a 16-core chip (code-named "Interlagos") in 2011. Both will be part of the Opteron 6000 series of chips designed for data center servers. Intel released the quad-core model of its Nehalem processor in 2009 with plans for six- and eight-core versions by the end of March.

And the battle between the two x86 server chipmakers isn't limited to fabrication plants. In 2005, just as AMD made a splash with its dual-core Opteron, it sued Intel for engaging in unfair competition. In November, Intel agreed to pay AMD $1.25 billion to settle the case, and the two now have a five-year cross-licensing deal.

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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