AMD unleashes Opteron 64-bit processor

AMD has entered the 64-bit computing market with the introduction of its Opteron processor. Designed to deliver full compatibility with existing x86 solutions, the vendor believes its protects customers’ existing investments.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  April 24, 2003

|~||~||~|AMD has entered the 64-bit computing market with the introduction of its Opteron processor. Designed to deliver full compatibility with existing x86 architecture solutions, the vendor believes its chipset protects customers’ existing investments by allowing them to run 32-bit software on the 64-bit platform.

“The AMD Opteron processor is the world’s first processor to eliminate barriers to 64-bit computing and accelerate the transition to a pervasive 64-bit environment,” says Hector Ruiz, president & CEO of AMD.

“Starting today, businesses of all sizes can leverage their substantial 32-bit investments as they migrate seamlessly – when and how they choose – to the superior processing power of 64-bit computing. The AMD Opteron processor gives customers the freedom to choose and use both, for the first time, to simplify business and build a future that leaves no enterprise behind,” he adds.

In addition to being highly compatible, AMD believes Opteron is streets ahead of its competition in terms of performance when run in either 2-way or 4-way servers. Key to this claim is the vendor’s high bandwidth integrated memory controller, which scales with processor frequency and the number of processors used in the server.

“Since we have integrated the memory controller into the processor die, every time a user adds a single processor to a system they are also adding a new memory controller. This means data does not have to go through the north bridge to access the memory and, as such, bandwidth goes up rather than down,” explains Ulrich Knechtel, European server & workstation product manager, AMD. “This means improved performance and increased scalability,” he adds.

Due to its ability to run applications built for the 32-bit environment, users of such apps will be AMD’s initial target market. “The biggest market we see today [for Opteron] is the 32-bit market. By selling Opteron processors in the 32-bit server space we open up the window for the customer to step up to 64-bit computing with the same environment,” comments Knechtel.

“Our main customers will also be large enterprises, as well as small and medium businesses, that have various applications that need a large memory configuration and high computing power,” adds Pierre Brunswick, regional sales manager for AMD in Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa.

However, if AMD is to succeed in selling to its target market, it will have to break Intel and the RISC vendors’ stranglehold on the market. Furthermore, it will have to raise the awareness of its products in the enterprise space as, up until now, the vendor has had few offerings with which to tempt high end users.

“It is a challenge to go into that [enterprise] market and be accepted,” admits Knechtel. “However, performance is really appreciated by customers at the high end, and with Opteron we are delivering performance computing.”

AMD’s move into the enterprise computing environment should be eased by its good relationships with the leading independent software vendors (ISVs). Not only was IBM present at AMD’s launch event, but it has already ported DB2 to Opteron. Furthermore, Microsoft has reiterated its commitment to developing a 64-bit operating system for the processor and a beta version should be available in mid-2003.

“Like AMD, Microsoft is in the business of maximising value for our customers,” says Brian Valentine, senior vice president of the Windows division at Microsoft. “The 64-bit Windows platform on platforms like AMD64 will drive even greater cost efficiencies and productivity improvements for customers who need unmatched power and scalability,” he adds.

AMD Opteron models 240, 242 and 244 for up to 2-way servers are available now and processors in the 800 series for up to 8-way servers will be available later this quarter. The vendor expects its 100 series for 1-way servers to be available in 3Q03. Prices for the 200 series will start at US$283 each in lots of 1,000.

Locally, the chipsets will be available as and when they make their global debuts and Sky Electronics and AMD’s other partners will distribute Opteron throughout the region. And, although the vendor is unwilling to release sales forecasts, it believes that the Middle East and other emerging markets will prove fruitful for the new processor.

“We are not at liberty to make any sales predictions, but we believe that the AMD Opteron processor is a volume product in a growing market segment and will, furthermore, enable us to penetrate a market [such as the Middle East], that is also new for AMD,” says Brunswick. ||**||

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