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AMD touts new Opteron processor as game-changer

Chipmaker unveils fifth-generation, 12-core Opteron processor, with AMD exec saying its technology is ahead of similar products from competitors.

SINGAPORE--Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is championing its fifth-generation Opteron processor--"the world's first 12-core x86 processor"--as a game-changer in the enterprise server market because the technology behind it is "one step ahead" of the competition, says a company executive.

Benjamin Williams, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD Asia-Pacific, pointed out that while Intel's six-core processor, the Xeon 5600 released two weeks ago, is an "improvement on existing technologies", the Opteron 6100 series of processors, codenamed "Magny-Cours" and available in eight and 12 cores, will be "revolutionary for the server market" in terms of performance and value.

"With our Opteron 6100 series processors, and the servers that will be using these chips, customers will get more cores, more memory, but at a lower price," Williams said in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

According to AMD, which cited pricing published on Dell's Web site in January, an eight-core server running Intel processors at 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) with 12 gigabytes (GB) of memory would cost US$2,877. This is costlier than a 12-core server using AMD's processors at the same GHz but with a larger memory of 16GB, which would go for US$2,409.

In comparison, Williams pointed out that AMD's offering showed a 16 percent improvement in cost at 50 percent more cores and 33 percent more memory. Additionally, the latest processor is "over 100 percent" faster than its six-core predecessor, codenamed "Istanbul", he added.

Another point of consideration, he said, is that Intel is "still taxing the 4P". This tax, Williams explained, refers to how companies currently have to buy two two-core processors to run one four-core server. With the launch of Magny-Cours, they just need to purchase one four-core server, thus removing additional cost to themselves in this value server market, he added.

Meeting Asia's needs
The AMD executive also highlighted that in Asia, with the market growing rapidly and expanding its infrastructure, particularly in emerging markets, the main question IT professionals are asking is: "How do I get more performance out of each server?"

Williams' response is the virtualization of data centers to give companies in this region more compute power with the same number of machines. This is where he says the Magny-Cours, with its additional performance and memory, is ideal.

Furthermore, AMD's Direct Connect Architecture 2.0 technology will allow virtualization using third-party software applications, such as those from VMware, to be a faster, more simplified process, the exec said.

Illustrating the point, William said the technology allows the virtualization application to "talk" to the processor directly without having to go through additional "hops", which helps improve CPU-to-CPU communication speeds to 6.4 gigatransfers per second (GT/s). This is an increase from the previous 4.8GT/s seen in the six-core Istanbul processor, he added.

"These [features] will be especially useful for sectors that make use of high performance computing (HPC), or even the financial industry that is required to crunch through many transactions each day," he said.

According to Williams, AMD has been shipping the processors since "earlier this month", but declined to comment on the company's sales targets or the number of processors already sold. He also stated that AMD is collaborating with companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, among others, to bring its Opteron series processors and servers into the Asia-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Intel is reportedly expected to respond to AMD's introduction of Magny-Cours with an eight-core processor of its own, according to an article published on ZDNet Asia's sister site, CNET News.