AMD unveils Opteron 4000

Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. released its Opteron 4000 server processor Wednesday, otherwise known as Lisbon, aimed at cloud computing and hyperscale data centres environments and small-to-medium sized businesses.

Such customers need dense computing data centres that are flexible, provide exceptional value and extreme power efficiency, said Margaret Lewis, director of software product marketing with AMD. “Energy efficiency is key for them. In fact that’s often the first parameter they’re looking at,” said Lewis.

The new Opteron 4000 product line includes features for virtualization, power management, DDR-3 memory, three power bands (of which one is 32 Watts).

In March, AMD launched its Opteron 6000 series server processors designed for the higher-end market with performance demands for environments with high-performance computing and large database configurations.

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But with the Opteron 4000 series, Lewis said AMD is also targeting besides cloud, the SMB space, which is a market whose unique needs have been largely under served. SMBs need something that is cost-efficient, scalable as the business grows, easy to manage, and has a long shelf life, said Lewis.

“The 4000 series, as well as reaching cloud computing, gives us an opportunity to have a low-power, low-cost processor that could go into the form factors that are more desirable especially for the small part of the SMB market,” said Lewis.

The Opteron 4000 series is as full-featured as the 6000. “We’re not telling the SMB market they have to buy a lesser processor in terms of richness of features to be successful,” said Lewis.

As for how well AMD has been able to meet the unique demands of SMBs, Lewis said AMD’s past processor designs “have not given us the types of form factors that we would say could reach all aspects of SMB market.”

The majority of AMD’s customers, whether enterprise or SMB, are highly concerned about power efficiency given that power costs are escalating globally even as new servers are not being deployed in data centres, said Lewis.

John Sloan, lead research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said that three or four years ago, AMD was focused primarily on capacity with its multi-core processors and memory, producing offerings that were probably of more interest to customers with higher processing demands.

Although AMD has only recently segmented its platform into various lines, Sloan said the chip-maker has always offered competitive pricing. “I don’t see AMD necessarily being a laggard with SMBs,” he said.

With new chip announcements such as the Opteron 4000, Sloan said AMD is focusing back on its core strengths in an attempt to regain the market share lost to Santa Clara, Calif.-based rival chip maker Intel Corp. “Intel was the dominant vendor in the market and really moved multiple-core processing forward and really grabbed back a lot of market share,” said Sloan, referring to Intel’s launch in 2009 of its Nehalem processors.

As for AMD’s focus on the cloud, Lewis said the company’s eye on customers running cloud environments is not something new. AMD already has at least two million AMD Opteron chips driving cloud clusters worldwide, according to Lewis. “We have been actively involved in cloud customers even before it was trendy to be in cloud, so to speak,” said Lewis.

In 2009, AMD launched its six-core Istanbul Opteron EE processor, a line of low bandwidth chips designed specifically for cloud computing customers.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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