AMD answers Intel with six-core processor

The company's new six-core processor will compete against Intel's "Dunnington" chip.

AMD launched its first six-core processor, which will compete against Intel's "Dunnington" chip.

The Cray XT5m supercomputer will use the Istanbul chip
The Cray XT5m supercomputer will use the Istanbul chip Cray

The "Istanbul" Opteron processor is for high-end server computers that use two, four, and eight processors or "sockets." Intel has been shipping a six-core processor for this market since September of last year and will bring out a processor based on its new Nehalem architecture for this segment later this year.

Among other new features, AMD is touting an Istanbul technology called HT Assist. The previous way of retrieving data from the processor's memory was "like checking every room in your house for your car keys," said Pat Patla, AMD's general manager of the server workstation group, in a phone interview last week. With HT Assist, "You know where your car keys are," he said. "It's much more efficient and takes out a lot of traffic," Patla added.

Patla also said that AMD is ahead of schedule with this chip, in stark contrast with the company's ill-fated quad-core Barcelona processor, which saw repeated delays. "Within almost a 15-month period of time we were able to design the product, tape out the product (final stage before production), verify the product and launch," Patla said about Istanbul.

Systems based on six-core AMD Opteron processors are expected to be available beginning this month from server suppliers including Cray, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems, AMD said Monday.

Istanbul boasts up to 34 percent more performance-per-watt over the previous-generation quad-core processors.

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