Sun rises on AMD's new Opterons

The chipmaker, which announced a partnership with Sun at this week's Comdex, introduces new 64-bit processor models that run at 2.2GHz.

John G. Spooner
John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
3 min read
Advanced Micro Devices got a vote of support from Sun Microsystems and added three new models to its stable of 64-bit Opteron processors for servers.

The chipmaker, which announced a partnership with Sun Microsystems at this week's Comdex trade show, launched the new Opterons--models 148, 248 and 848--early Monday. The new models, which run at 2.2GHz, represent an increase in performance for the chip family.

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Sun said in a statement that it will introduce two- and four-processor Sun Fire servers, which contain the chip, over the course of 2004. Meanwhile, AMD hopes the Opteron and the Sun partnership will work as a fulcrum that catapults its revenue by winning more business from corporations. To date, the chip has seen a string of wins in supercomputers and also high-performance computing clusters.

IBM offers the Opteron chip in one of its servers, designed mainly for clusters. Bringing Sun on board would likely increase the availability of more generalized business servers based on Opteron, adding more weight to the chip's do-it-all approach. The chip, introduced earlier this year, can run 32-bit or 64-bit software.

Most applications and operating systems are based on 32-bit addressing, and a switch to 64 bits would boost the performance of databases and other applications by dramatically increasing the amount of memory available at any one time.

AMD's single-chip strategy for servers differs from Intel's, which offers separate chips for 32-bit and 64-bit servers. But because Opteron servers can run both 32-bit and 64-bit software and cost about the same as 32-bit Intel servers, AMD argues that machines with its chip can help companies save money by not having to upgrade to new, more expensive gear when making the switch to 64 bits.

Sun will likely tout AMD's 64-bits-on-the-cheap argument as well. The company said Monday that it would offer Sun Fire Opteron servers running a version of its Solaris operating system created for the chip and an unnamed version of the Linux operating system.

The two companies also said they would collaborate on future technology, software development and marketing.

"With the AMD Opteron processor, we're giving the server and workstation industry an opportunity to hit a grand slam with its purchasing decisions," Marty Seyer, general manager of AMD's Microprocessor Business Unit, said in a statement.

"IT managers, small and medium businesses and workstation users are increasingly interested in products that meet their immediate needs for 32-bit processing power and protect their investments as they move to the next phase of computing with 64-bit applications," Seyer said.

AMD uses a model number to distinguish its Opteron chips, as it does with its Athlon chips for desktops and notebooks.

The first of the three digits in each Opteron model number designates the type of server the chip was created for, such as a dual-processor system. The second and third digits describe the chip's performance relative to other models in the same line.

The Opteron Model 148, designed for single-processor servers and also workstations, will appear in systems in December, AMD said. The 1 shows that the chip was designed for single-processor machines, while the 48 shows that it offers more performance than the 2GHz Opteron 146, launched in September.

AMD's Opteron Model 248, created for dual-processor servers and workstations, is currently available, the company said. The Opteron Model 848, for four- and eight-processor servers, will also come out in systems in December, AMD said.

When sold in 1,000-unit quantities, the Model 148 will cost $733, while the Model 248 will bet $913 and the Model 848 will be $3,199, AMD said. Street prices on the chips are likely to vary.

The chipmaker is also working on versions of the chip for blade servers, the company has said.