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Advanced Micro Devices is maintaining a reserved attitude towards Intel's powerful new Nehalem server chips, going so far as to publicly congratulate its larger rival in the x86 microprocessor market Tuesday "on the performance of its all-new processors and the attending all-new OEM platforms."
What AMD isn't saying, officially at least, is that in response to the fanfare around Intel's Xeon 5500 series processors, the smaller company has moved up the release of a new six-core server chip code named Istanbul from the second half of this year to June, according to a white-box partner of both companies.
"What they are going to do is pull in the Istanbul launch towards the first half, specifically in June," said the partner, who asked that his name not be used. The source, who represents a Midwest-based custom system integrator, told ChannelWeb.com that the new release date came directly from AMD communications with channel partners under a non-disclosure agreement.
Beating the targets in the official product road map would not be a new feat for AMD in the Shanghai generation. The chip maker was early with its first 45nm Opteron parts last year, thanks to "an exceptionally smooth validation process," according to the company. Meanwhile, AMD CEO Dirk Meyer said late last month that the chip maker would have 32nm chips in the fourth quarter of 2010. With Intel ramping its own 32nm process at the end of this year, that transition time frame for AMD could decrease the lag time it experienced following Intel on 45nm by about a quarter.
As for Istanbul, AMD's John Taylor referenced the processor in his Tuesday blog outlining the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker's stance on Intel's Monday release of its new Xeon lineup. But Taylor, director of global platform and product communications at AMD, wrote that the six-core chip was "on deck for 2H09."
That official line was echoed by Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions at AMD, in an interview Tuesday with ChannelWeb.
"We'll be moving forward to Istanbul, our six-core processor, in the second half of this year. But we do it in the same power envelope and socket [as AMD's current Shanghai-generation server chips], so the idea is to give people the ability to further improve their server environment but not at the cost of de-featuring the processor," she said.
Lewis did say that in April, AMD would be releasing a new Shanghai-class server chip with an even lower power draw than the chip maker's current leader in that category, the quad-core 2.3GHz Opteron 8376HE, which draws 55 watts by AMD's Average CPU Power (ACP) rating system. The lowest power band in Intel's new Xeon 5500 series is 38 watts for an embedded processer, the dual-core 2.0GHz Xeon L5508, and 60 watts for three other new quad-core Nehalem-based chips, one built for embedded systems and a pair for two-socket servers.
To add to the confusion, Intel uses the Thermal Design Power (TDP) scheme to classify a processor's power draw, which produces slightly higher numbers than the ACP value. Thus 55 watts on the ACP scale translates to 68 watts under TDP. AMD's message is that the ACP rating more accurately reflects processor thermals while running "relevant commercially useful high-utilization workloads."