AMD boosts Opteron speed, plans 'Rev F' models

Chipmaker boosts server chips to 2.6GHz and plans new memory, virtualization features in coming months.

Advanced Micro Devices plans to announce three new 2.6GHz Opteron models Monday, the newest step in its steady effort to encroach on a market that rival Intel once had to itself.

The new dual-core Opteron models 185, 285 and 885 run at 2.6GHz and show performance improvements of about 4 percent to 15 percent compared with earlier top-end models running at 2.4GHz, said Brent Kerby, AMD's Opteron product marketing manager. The announcement comes a day before AMD's top competitor begins its twice-annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

The 185 model is for single-processor systems and will be available within 30 days, at which point pricing will be announced. The 285 model is for dual-processor systems and costs $1,051 in 1,000-unit quantities. The 885 model is for four- or eight-processor systems and costs $2,149 in 1,000-unit quantities, AMD said.

processor

With Opteron, AMD beat Intel's Xeon to the punch with several features useful for server processors, including support for large amounts of memory through 64-bit extensions and a dual-core design. Revenue from x86 servers using AMD chips jumped from 6 percent market share in the last quarter of 2004 to 14.3 percent in the last quarter of 2005, according to IDC.

The chips consume a maximum of 95 watts, just like their predecessors. But the company released several other models for specific customers that vary from the mainstream Opterons.

Generally, about three months after a new Opteron comes to market, AMD releases a high-efficiency "HE" version that's 400MHz slower but consumes only 55 watts. Hewlett-Packard and IBM buy full-speed models that consume only 68 watts and that are built into the companies' blade servers. And Sun Microsystems buys a model that's 200MHz faster and fits within a 120-watt envelope.

Later this year, AMD will introduce a new type of Opteron, the "Rev F" models, code-named Santa Rosa, Kerby said. Those models will include two major new features: Pacifica--virtualization technology that makes it easier to run multiple operating systems simultaneously in separate partitions called virtual machines--and Presidio, a technology to improve security.

The Rev F models also add support for a new memory technology, DDR2. Intel moved from conventional DDR (double data rate) to DDR2 earlier and is now moving from DDR2 to another technology called FB-DIMM (fully buffered dual inline memory modules). FB-DIMM uses the same memory modules as DDR2, but uses a new serial interface that transmits data over a small number of higher-speed electrical links rather than a larger number of parallel wires.

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