AMD benchmark info, price cuts signal new Opterons

Benchmark results for unannounced Opteron processors posted on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s (AMD’s) Web site, coupled with steep price cuts on the Opteron line Monday, appear to indicate that AMD is planning to introduce three new Opteron chips in the coming weeks.

AMD has Composite Theoretical Performance (CTP) benchmark results for the nine previously announced Opteron processors posted on its Web site at But results for the unannounced Opteron 146, Opteron 246, and Opteron 846 processors are also listed on that Web page.

The new processors are expected to offer just speed increases over the current Opterons, with no major changes to the cache or architecture.

An AMD spokesperson declined to comment on unannounced products.

On Monday, AMD cut prices for several of its processors, but the Opteron prices declined sharply. The Opteron 144 now costs US$438 in quantities of 1,000 units, down from US$669 on June 30. The price of the Opteron 244 also declined from US$794 on June 30 to US$690 on Monday, but the price of the Opteron 844 remained at US$2,149. Price cuts are generally an indication that a chip maker is planning to introduce a new processor.

The Opteron has been out in the market just about a full quarter since its launch in April, and performance reviews have been positive so far, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst with Mercury Research Inc. in Cave Creek, Ariz. The Opteron chips are competitive with Intel Corp.’s Xeon processors for 32-bit servers, and have the added bonus of 64-bit performance, he said.

In the last quarter, AMD shipped roughly 8,000 to 10,000 processors, which falls in line with Mercury’s expectations, McCarron said. Server customers are slower than PC users to adopt new products, because most businesses insist on a testing and validation program before adopting any new technology that will run their business applications, he said.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company announced last week that China’s Dawning Information Industry Co. Ltd. will use the Opteron to build a powerful supercomputer.

Support for the Opteron should continue to grow when Microsoft Corp. releases the Opteron version of Windows Server 2003, McCarron said. A production version of the operating system is expected to be out before the end of the year.

AMD will release the desktop version of the Opteron, the Athlon64 chip, on September 23.