AMD has officially announced its 4000 series Opteron processors designed to appeal to a new market segment for power-efficient and low-cost servers. Meanwhile, the company confirmed it is bringing forward the launch of its 6000 series to Q1 of 2010, earlier than originally planned.
Due to ship in Q2 2010, the Opteron 4000 series is designed for servers focused more on low-cost and power-efficiency than maximum performance, an area of the market that AMD believes is currently underserved.
"The traditional processor mentality is that it's got to be bigger and faster than anything else, but there's a whole other segment of the market, such as cloud computing providers, looking for power efficiency and cost effectiveness, and we believe this is an area ripe for exploiting," said John Fruehe, AMD’s director of server business development.
The Opteron 4000 series will be split into chip lines codenamed San Marino and Adelaide, targeting power efficiency and low cost, respectively. Both will fit into a new processor socket, the C32, and are expected to have four to six cores with a maximum total power consumption of 35W.
"This gives us the ability to have a two-socket system that draws only as much power as a standard single-socket server," Fruehe said.
AMD sees three distinct markets for the new platform; web and cloud hosts looking for power-efficient servers with virtualisation capability; small businesses needing entry-level servers; and enterprises looking for low-cost hardware to fit roles such as DNS and DHCP servers, which do not need the scalability required of database servers, for example.
Small businesses in particular have often had to settle for kit based on desktop PC platforms, hardware not best suited for server roles, according to Fruehe.
In contrast, the 4000 series chips offer the same capabilities of AMD's high-end chips, while the whole platform has been designed for reduced cost. It uses a low-cost chipset, requires a smaller power supply than a typical enterprise server, needs less cooling, and saves on qualification costs because of commonality with the 6000 series.
Also due to launch in Q2 2010, the Opteron 6000 series is the flip side of the coin from the 4000 series. Codenamed Magny-Cours, these chips will be "the first eight and 12 core x86 processors on the market", according to Fruehe, and will fit server systems with two or four sockets, enabling them to effectively replace the existing Opteron 1000, 2000 and 8000 chips.
The Opteron 6000 series will be based on a second different socket, the G34, but both the 4000 and 6000 chips will use the same chipsets and will be Bios, driver, and software compatible.
"What this means is that software can move from G34 to C32 systems and vice versa. By having this consistency, enterprise customers know that they can move virtual machines easily between systems based on the two platforms," he explained.
Both platforms also move to supporting only DDR3 memory, with the 4000 series having two memory channels while the 6000 series can have up to four.
"Customers are looking for more memory throughput for the types of workload the 6000 series is aimed at – virtualisation and databases," said Fruehe.
He added that AMD expects DDR3 to go mainstream in 2010, after cost and availability issues held up adoption of the faster standard this year.
Looking further ahead to 2011, the 4000 series will move to a next-generation core codenamed Valencia that will have six to eight cores, but will be socket and thermal compatible with the first generation.
During the same timeframe, the 6000 series will move to the Interlagos core with 12 to 16 cores. Both will be based on a new architecture codenamed Bulldozer.
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