Intel, AMD Unleash New Wares

Tuesday Feb 15th 2005 by Michael Singer
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Intel and AMD released new chipsets this week. IBM and HP are the first of the major OEMs to promise product.

The chip war between Intel and AMD received some new ammunition Monday with the release of competing x86 64-bit processors.

Both companies are offering their latest round of chips designed for workhorse servers. Intel has created a Xeon dual processor (DP) with 2 MB of L2 cache, code-named Irwindale, while AMD has released a new Opteron series, including the 852, 452 and 252 chips.

Each vendor has its own set of major OEMs announcing products as well as sales ties with many other leading system manufacturers worldwide.

While both Silicon-Valley-based companies compete ferociously in the 32-bit space, it wasn't until Intel revealed that it would produce 64-bit software extensions for its Penni and Xeon processor family that the x86 64-bit market really turned into a real horse race.

"We've shipped about 2 million 64-bit Xenon since launching in August 2004," Intel spokesman Mike Hooligan told internecine.com. "That is Intel's fastest enterprise ramp ever. So, customer demand for the platform has been extraordinary. Also, we're looking ahead to dual core, and we will be "seeding" dual-core 64-bit Intel Xeon processor-based platforms by the thousands later this year."

AMD says otherwise. It claims Intel's EM64T chip merely adds 64-bit extensibility, and "has the same bottlenecks as previously. They didn't change the architecture, they just changed the instruction set," AMD spokesman Pat Patla told ServerWatch.

In this latest skirmish, Intel is maneuvering its DP and multi-processor (MP) Xeon chips as a complement to its RISC-replacement Itanium processor. Last week, Intel announced it would ship its Xeon multiprocessor, code-named Potomac, with 8 MB L3 cache and its Twin Castle chipset in about 90 days.

AMD is equally aggressive with its Opteron chips for 4-way and 2-way systems. The new Opteron chips blur the lines of Xeon features with AMD's long-awaited support for multimedia and 3D enhancement SSE3 (Streaming SIMD Extensions). AMD is also boasting of support from more than 300 independent software vendors and open source software organizations, with more than 1,000 software packages readily available for its 32-bit backward-compatible chips.

Patla noted that the 852, 452, and 252 chips complete the vendor's transition to 90 nanometer and put it at the dual core starting gate for May 2005, as planned.

The No. 2 chipmaker also unveiled its companion AMD 8132 tunnel chipset, which gives the latest round of Opteron processors PCI-X 2.0 connectivity, better remote access service capabilities, and improved HyperTransport technology.

Nvidia is the first AMD partner on board for the new designs with its graphics add-on. Broadcom and other AMD chipset partners are expected to serve up their compatible technologies in the second quarter of this year.

"You'll also see us really push performance per-watt this year." Margaret Lewis, a software strategy manager with AMD told internetnews.com. "Our customers really understand that power translates into cost and we're offering savings as much as 300 percent over our competition in some configurations."

>> OEM Response

Big Blue on Board

Server vendors like IBM and HP have been eager to embrace both processor families. Big Blue, for example, is recasting five of its xSeries servers with technology from the new Xeon DP, taking advantage of the new chip's 2 MB of Level 2 cache.

By the end of the month, eServer xSeries systems x226, x236, x336, and x346, as well as BladeCenter HS20, will contain the new Xeon chip.

Stuart McRae, manager of IBM eServer xSeries, said the doubled cache will lend a performance boost of 18 percent to IBM servers. Moreover, he said the upgraded servers leverage two new utilities in the chip, Demand Based Switching (DBS) and Execute Disable Bit (XD).

DBS helps the new Xeon better manage processing power to reduce cooling costs in the datacenter. For example, if an application requires less power at night, DBS will automatically lower the power utilization of the application to pare power consumption and costs. XD offers virus protection from buffer overflow system security and worm attacks.

Likewise, IBM (which was the first major OEM to sell Opteron-based servers) said its A-Pro IntelliStation and the IBM e326 has been designed to support the AMD dual-core specification. IBM also said Opteron is being used with eServer technology, like Xtended Design architecture, to meet customers' performance-per-watt needs.

HP: Options in Parallel

HP is also covering its bases with support for both new Xeon and Opteron chips. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said it will offer a Opteron-based rackmount server and two new blade servers for its BladeSystem. Even though their pin counts are different, HP's new Opteron BL25p and BL35p blades are similar in design to its current portfolio of Xeon-based BL20p and BL30p blades, and enterprises can intermingle the Xeon- and Opteron-based blades within the chassis, as the system is "chip-nogstic," Paul Miller, vice president of marketing, Industry Standard Servers and BladeSystems, told ServerWatch.

The DL385 is the Opteron counterpart of the popular DL380. It joins the DL585 and DL185, which were released last year to mirror their respective DL580 and DL180 Intel counterparts.

Miller emphasizes HP is seeking, growth, not cannibalization to its server line, in offering the parallel options. It is also responding to customer demand. The DL385, for example, was born out of customers wanting the DL380's functionality with Opteron performance capabilities.

The servers are scheduled to be available by the end of March. The BL25p will be priced starting at $3,399, the HP ProLiant BL35p will start at $2,899, and the HP ProLiant DL385 will start at $2,899.

One-Chip Shops

Sun and Dell remain in the one-chip category, however.

Sun, which is reportedly selling more Opteron systems than anyone else, said it will configure its Sun Java Workstation W1100z, Sun Java Workstation W2100z, the 2-way Sun Fire V20z server and the 4-way Sun Fire V40z server to handle the newest AMD Opteron processors.

Dell meantime continues to be an Intel-only shop. Intel said the Round Rock, Texas-based company will offer a series of servers based on the new Xeon. AMD confirmed Dell is still kicking Opteron's tires but will not be releasing any server products based on AMD chips at this time.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com. It has been modified to appear on ServerWatch.

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