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AMD speeds up server chips

Advanced Micro Devices releases a faster version of its Athlon chip for servers and workstations, an upgrade to help it maintain its new foothold in the server processor market.

Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday released a faster version of its Athlon chip for servers and workstations, an upgrade to help the company maintain its new foothold in the server processor market.

The Athlon MP 2600+ can fit into one and two processor servers and workstations. Approximately 49 system integrators and PC makers, mostly small and regional manufacturers, will release systems in conjunction with the new chip, according to the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based processor maker.

Despite a spate of product delays over the past year, AMD has managed to carve out a spot in the lucrative server processor market. Two years ago, the company sold virtually no chips into the server market.

Now, AMD ships approximately 100,000 server chips a quarter and accounts for around 5 percent of the chips shipped into the so-called X86 server market, according to Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

A growing number of large companies are installing AMD-based servers as well. ConocoPhillips, for instance, uses Athlon MP servers in its seismic imaging department. DaimlerChrysler also has installed Athlon servers.

In April, AMD will try to increase its presence in this market with Opteron, a completely new server chip that will be capable of running both 32-bit and 64-bit software.

Additionally, Opteron will come with an integrated memory controller, a typically discreet component that relays data between main memory and the processor. Opteron will be connected to other processors via a high-speed link called HyperTransport. Executives from IBM, among other companies, have said that the chip could challenge Intel.

Opteron, though, comes to the market after substantial delays. AMD also had to postpone a desktop version of the chip until September. The holdups in part revolve around trying to incorporate "silicon on insulator" (SOI) technology, which reduces energy consumption, into the Opteron family. AMD had to redesign Barton, the code name of a chip coming in February, and remove the SOI element to get the chip to market.

The Athlon MP 2600+ will cost $273 in 1,000 unit quantities. AMD often gives substantial discounts to customers who buy larger quantities of chips.

The 2600+ runs at 2.1GHz. AMD's performance numbers roughly correlate to the equivalent clock speed of Intel's Pentium 4 chips, although exact comparisons vary, depending on the benchmark test and other factors.