AMD expands Opteron chip line

Advanced Micro Devices launches 64-bit chips for servers with both single and multiple processors. It's also looking to fend off Itanium advances from rival Intel.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Advanced Micro Devices on Monday rallied a new phalanx of Opteron processors for servers, on the same day that rival Intel also unveiled a battery of server chips.

The chipmaker introduced the Opteron 800 and Opteron 100, the two latest versions of its 64-bit Opteron processor for servers. AMD created the 800 line for four-processor or eight-processor servers and the 100 line for single-processor servers.

AMD wants to use Opteron to gain acceptance in the business market by helping to lower the price of 64-bit servers. A 64-bit server's inherent capabilities, such as handling more RAM, should boost performance in some settings when measured against current 32-bit servers.

The company plans to pay particularly close attention to making a mark with four-processor servers based on the Opteron 800, its executives have said.

"We're going to play a role in establishing a new price point in four-way servers. Right now there is a lot of distance between two-way and eight-way servers. AMD is going to create a new price performance category in the four-way space," Rob Herb, AMD's chief of sales and marketing, said in an interview with CNET News.com at the Opteron launch event in April.

Because of Opteron's pricing, manufacturers will be able to build a four-processor server that will sell for less than $10,000, Herb said. That means a four-processor Opteron 800 server can be purchased for about $5,000 less than a current four-processor server, but only a couple of thousand dollars more than a top-of-the line two-processor server, he said.

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The new Opterons also give AMD more ammunition with which to market its chips as alternatives to new 64-bit Itanium chips from rival Intel. AMD will tout the Opteron 200 and Opteron 800 as alternatives to Intel's latest Itanium and Xeon MP processors, which were also unveiled on Monday. The Opteron is priced lower than Itanium, but generally more than Xeon.

So far, AMD has signed on several manufacturers, including IBM, to use Opteron in servers. IBM hasn't said exactly how many processors its new Opteron server will contain. At least three companies, including Appro International, Aspen Systems and RackSaver, are offering Opteron 800 servers now, according to AMD.

Like the Opteron 200, which was designed for dual-processor servers, the Opteron 800 will be available in three models: the 840, 842 and 844.

The first digit in the Opteron model number, 8, relates to the number of processors a server can expect to accommodate. The second two digits reflect performance. The model 842, for instance, is designed for a server with up eight processors and offers more performance than a model 840, but less than a model 844. The chip will offer similar performance to a model 242 chip for two-processor servers, however.

Because the model numbers are similar, it's likely the Opteron 800 also runs at similar clock speeds to the Opteron 200, which came out in April at between 1.4GHz and 1.8GHz.

The Opteron 100 for single-processor servers will also be available in three models: the 140, 142 and 144. Servers using the chip should begin shipping in July, AMD said.

List prices for the Opteron 800 family start at $749 for the Opteron 840. The Opteron 842 lists for $1,299, and the Opteron 844 is $2,149. Prices for the Opteron 100 family range from $229 for the model 140 to $669 for the model 144.