Intel Corp.'s top server executive acknowledged the disparity between the server processor road maps of his company and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) Thursday, but said Intel should weather the storm based on its revitalized product line and a renewed focus on end users.
AMD released its first dual-core server processors last week, but Intel is not expected to follow suit until the first quarter of 2006 with its Dempsey processor. Intel's single-core Xeon chips will be well behind the performance of AMD's dual-core Opteron processors, but server customers weigh many factors when making a purchase decision, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group.
Users will find dual-core Opteron servers intriguing when compared to single-core Xeon servers, Gelsinger said. "There will clearly be some tire-kickers, and maybe some losses," he said, referring to Intel customers who might switch to servers based on AMD's chips.
A customer who is happy with Intel, and has been successful with Intel, could easily convince themselves that as long as Intel will have a competitive solution, it's not worth changing horses.Nathan Brookwood>TextHowever, enterprise customers are generally conservative when it comes to technology changes, Gelsinger said. Users interested in servers with four or more processors currently have the option of Intel's new Truland platform, which will protect any current investments by allowing customers to plug dual-core Xeon chips into their existing Truland servers when these chips become available next year, he said.
Things are not so rosy on the two-way server front. Intel does not currently offer a chipset for two-processor servers that will support dual-core chips and prevent customers from having to buy another server in 2006 to take advantage of dual-core performance.
The six months or so in between Opteron's dual-core debut and Intel's Dempsey are probably short enough for Intel to dissuade customers from abandoning ship, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64 in Saratoga, California. With the disclosure of several new dual-core projects at March's Spring Intel Developer Forum, the company reassured customers wary about its future road map, he said.
However, Intel will still have a difficult time competing against Opteron because of the Xeon product's reliance on a front-side bus to coordinate the exchange of information between cores in dual-core processors, Brookwood said.
Intel's chips use a pathway known as a front-side bus to connect the CPU (central processing unit) with a system's chipset, where it can access data stored in memory chips, I/O ports, or another processor core. Opteron's designers, on the other hand, connected the CPU directly to the memory chips, I/O, and a second processor core with the Hypertransport interconnect technology. This design improves performance because data can travel directly from the CPU to memory or another CPU without having to pass through the chipset, Brookwood said.