AMD Continues Push into Server Chip Market

by Michael Chait

AMD continued pushing its way into the Intel-dominated server chip market, releasing the latest in its Athlon MP processor line, the 2200+ Tuesday.

AMD continued pushing its way into the Intel-dominated server chip market, Tuesday releasing the latest in its Athlon MP processor line, the 2200+.

The new chip represents a switch in its server chip line to 0.13-micron copper process technology. The 0.13-micron manufacturing technology, as opposed to traditional 0.18-micron, allows processors to achieve higher performance while lowering power requirements, all on a smaller die size.

The 2200+ is the third and final member of the AMD Athlon processor family to transition to 0.13-micron copper process technology. AMD Athlon processors for mobile and desktop systems transitioned earlier in 2002.

While AMD has been battling with Intel in the PC processor market since the 1980s, the company recently moved in on the server chip front with only modest success.

"AMD hasn't had a huge amount of luck moving in (on the server market)," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. "The problem they face with the server market is that people pay more attention to the brand of the components that go into the servers and are more inclined to purchase more conservatively."

Intel's brand loyalty, coupled with AMD's minor price and performance differentiation, could make AMD's entry into the server market a rocky road.

According to Haff, the company may have to wait for its release of Opteron to make its big push into the server chip market. Opteron, the multiprocessor capable based parts of "Hammer," is a family of processors designed to provide high performance on 32-bit applications while allowing a migration path to 64-bit applications.

"That's going to be the pivot point where AMD has an opportunity to differentiate themselves from Intel," said Haff. "If they are going to succeed in the server market it is going to be on the back of Opteron."

AMD is expected to start releasing products in the Opteron family later this year or early next year. Intel recently released its own 64-bit chip, Itanium, and is also rumored to be working on a similar 32-/64-bit migratory product to rival AMD.

Despite slow entry into the business market, AMD, has had some good news in recent weeks, including a strong push last week following a deal with Hewlett-Packard, to use its Athlon XP chips in one PC model, the D315, aimed specifically at business users. While HP, and other major PC makers readily use AMD chips in many consumer-based PCs, the deal marked the first major PC maker to use AMD chips in the business.

Haff notes that while this presents a big opening for HP, the scope will be determined by how HP proceeds with AMD in other parts of its line.

"To what degree HP is really committed to using AMD in a broad range of systems, we will see," said Haff. "This certainly could be merely HP showing off some market independence from Intel and using AMD in a token way."

Along with the newly released MP 2200+, AMD is offering its AMD-760 MPX chipset, which provides high-speed peripheral connections compatible with all AMD Athlon MP processors.

Systems featuring the AMD Athlon MP processor 2200+ are available immediately from approximately 35 manufacturers worldwide. Chip prices set at $224, based on 1,000-unit quantities.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Aug 27th 2002
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