AMD Bolsters Istanbul Lineup With 40W Six-Core Chip


Advanced Micro Devices released the extremely energy-efficient version of its six-core Opteron server processor Monday as part of AMD's ongoing ramp of Istanbul-class products, continuing its recent pattern of following on new mainstream server chips with low-power specialty parts.

"What happens typically is that we launch our standard power parts, and as we're doing that, the manufacturing side is turning the knobs for the lower power parts that come out shortly thereafter," said Brent Kerby, a senior product manager for AMD's Server and Workstation division, introducing the new $989 Opteron 2419 EE processor.

At 40 watts, Monday's new release draws the lowest power within AMD's next-generation family of six-core processors code-named Istanbul. The 1.8GHz Opteron 2419 EE is being touted by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD as a good fit for cloud computing installations, Web 2.0 applications and other dense computing environments.

Kerby said the 2419 EE delivers 30 percent better performance per watt than AMD's quad-core Opteron 2384, a 2.7GHz, 75-watt processor released as part of the chip maker's previous generation of server chips code-named Shanghai. AMD's next big milestone on the Opteron road map, a processor code-named Magny-Cours that comes in eight-core and 12-core flavors, is being sampled to partners and will be officially released in the first quarter of 2010, according to the company.

Key specs for the six-core 2419 EE include a combined 128 KB of L1 cache per core, 512 KB of L2 cache per core and a total of 6 MB of L3 cache. The memory standard for the 2419 EE remains DDR2 -- Kerby posited that servers built on AMD six-core parts delivered cost savings on memory of up to 30 percent as compared to equivalent Intel Nehalem builds, which require more expensive DDR3 memory. That's particularly enticing in dense environments such as a cloud computing data center, he claimed, where one could save about $1 million on memory alone in a 25-rack installation.

The new six-core processor is designed for dual-socket servers and workstations, slotting into AMD's socket F. That's the same socket that has been built for several generations of Opteron products. Istanbul marks the end of the line for AMD's long run of Opteron socket compatibility with previous generations -- Magny-Cours and subsequent Opteron products will require a new hardware platform entirely.

AMD's newest product is the 11th in an Istanbul lineup that debuted in early June with the chip maker's first five processors featuring six cores. AMD followed up with five more Istanbul chips in mid-July, including three "highly efficient" or HE processors in two-, four- or eight-socket flavors, with average power draws of just 55 watts.

All Istanbul parts are manufactured with AMD's 45nm process technology, as is the quad-core Shanghai generation of products.

AMD also has made a point to offer full features such as AMD Virtualization up and down its lineup of Istanbul products, Kerby said.

AMD clearly hopes that the contrast with its larger rival Intel's next generation of products will be obvious. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant's lineup of Nehalem-class parts in its new Xeon 3500 and 5500 series features technologies such as TurboBoost and hyperthreading, but only in some processors at the top of the lineup.

"The AMD Opteron EE processor enables OEMs to deliver energy-saving servers that don't compromise on power management, virtualization or performance features," said Patrick Patla, vice president and general manager of AMD's Server and Workstation division.

Meanwhile, Intel is readying the release of eight-core chips next year, according to the company's product road map. The chip giant also will begin the transition to the 32nm process later this year with the planned release of its first-ever products on that technology node.

Michele Masterson contributed to this article.