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AMD paints Opteron chips by the numbers

The chipmaker announces a new matrix of model numbers for its forthcoming 64-bit chips for workstations and servers, in its campaign against the "megahertz myth."

Advanced Micro Devices will market its Opteron processors by the numbers.

The chipmaker on Thursday announced a new matrix of model numbers for its forthcoming 64-bit chips for workstations and servers. Instead of using a four-digit model number, similar to the scheme for its Athlon XP processor for PCs, the company chose to identify the new chips with a three-digit model number--resulting in models such as the AMD Opteron 140 Series--as a way to depict each particular chip's capabilities.

Opteron, AMD's next generation of high-end chips, is set to debut April 22. The chips will be a key part of the company's efforts in 2003 to gain new business customers and also to return to profitability.

AMD said that before finalizing the new Opteron model numbers, it consulted with its computer manufacturer customers and its business customers and got favorable responses.

The chip is expected to start at speeds of about 2GHz. But the new model numbers don't reflect clock speed. Instead, they show whether a given chip is designed for single- or multiple-processor servers and then point to its performance relative to other chips in the same family, the company said.

The new Opteron lines will include the 100 Series, for single-processor machines; the 200 Series, for dual-processor systems; and the 800 Series, for computers using up to eight processors. The individual chips will start their numbering at 40, so under the new nomenclature there would be a model 140, a model 240 and a model 840. As chip speed increases, so would the model number--a model 142, for instance, would be faster than a model 140, and a model 144 would be faster still.

The model numbers are likely to increase by two each time a new chip comes out. The Opteron 100 series would start at 140, for example, and then move to 142 with the introduction of a new chip.

"We didn't want to start at 10, 20 or 30, because if you started at those numbers, it could be confused with frequency," a company representative said. "A (model ending in) 24, for example, could be misinterpreted as a 2.4GHz."

The new Opteron model numbers continue AMD's efforts to change people's thinking away from using clock speed as the only measure of a chip's performance. The company calls the computer industry's obsession with clock speed the "megahertz myth."

In October 2001, AMD moved from using clock speeds to a model number rating system for its Athlon XP processors.

Still, the company plans to make public the clock speeds for the Opteron chip. But AMD will emphasize the model numbers and the chip's performance on applications, instead of relying on clock speed to represent the chip's performance.

A chip's "frequency is not the only factor in application performance. We want to continue to change the focus from frequency to application performance," the company representative said.