AMD rounds out Opteron line

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) expanded its range of Opteron processors Monday, adding the 800 series for eight-way servers and the 100 series for single-processor servers, the company said in a release.

The release of the Opteron 800 and Opteron 100 series processors completes the initial lineup of Opteron processors that AMD announced in April, and represents the rest of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company’s strategy for selling more of its chips to the enterprise market. AMD released the Opteron 200 series for two-way servers at its launch event in New York in April.

As part of Monday’s announcement, AMD unveiled its Validated Server Program (VSP). This program is designed to let smaller system vendors have access to manufacturing expertise and technical support for Opteron servers that they would be otherwise unable to provide themselves, an AMD spokeswoman said.

AMD is partnering with manufacturing company Celestica Inc. to offer VSP participants the choice of partially assembled or fixed configuration Opteron 800 and Opteron 200 servers. Two rack-mount servers will be initially available: the 4U (7 inch high) A8440 server with four Opteron 800 series processors, and the 1U A2210 server with two Opteron 200 series processors. Celestica will also provide system builders with help in servicing, supporting, and shipping the new servers.

Appro International, Aspen Systems Inc., and Racksaver Inc. are the initial members of the VSP program. AMD will expand the VSP program to Europe and Asia in the second half of the year, it said.

Three Opteron 800 processors are available immediately through the VSP-affiliated system builders in North America. The Opteron 844 costs US$2,149, the Opteron 842 costs US$1,299, and the Opteron 840 costs US$749, all in quantities of 1,000 units. The 800 series chips will be available worldwide later this year.

In quantities of 1,000 units, the Opteron 144 costs US$669, the Opteron 142 costs US$438, and the Opteron 140 costs US$229. They are available immediately worldwide, and motherboards from Asustek Computer Inc. for the Opteron 100 series processors will be available in July, AMD said.

For its 32-bit processors, AMD uses a model number rating system to indicate the performance of its processors, distinguishing it from rival Intel Corp. which numbers processors by their clock speed.

The three-digit model numbers for the Opteron range move even further away from processor speed.

The first digit in the Opteron model numbers indicates the maximum number of processors that can be used in a server or workstation with that particular chip. For example the 800 series can be used in 8-way servers. The second and third digits indicate the relative performance of the processors, AMD said. The actual clock speeds of the Opteron processors are 1.4GHz for the 140, 240, and 840 chips; 1.6GHz for the 142, 242, and 842 chips, and 1.8GHz for the 144, 244, and 844 chips.

All the Opteron processors have 1Mb of Level 2 cache.

AMD added 64-bit extensions to the 32-bit x86 instruction set in developing the Opteron, which can run both 32-bit applications and 64-bit applications. IT managers need to port their applications to take advantage of the 64-bit capability, but can keep some of their applications in 32-bit mode, and still see a performance increase over existing 32-bit server processors, according to AMD.

In an interesting coincidence, Intel Monday released a new version of its 64-bit Itanium 2 processor formerly code-named Madison. Older versions of Itanium 2 were able to run 32-bit applications, but at a very low level of performance.

Intel has developed software for the newest Itanium chip called IA-32 Execution Layer that improves the performance of 32-bit applications on Itanium to the equivalent of a 1.5GHz Intel Xeon MP processor, the company claims. IA-32 Execution Layer will be available later this year with Service Pack 1 of the Itanium version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Advanced Server 2003 operating system, an Intel spokeswoman said.

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