AMD Aims Opteron At Channel

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"We want to help you to be able to differentiate yourself in the marketplace," said Mark deFrere, marketing manager for AMD's North American regional team, said during the Premiere, which focused on how resellers can build revenues streams with the company's AMD's 64-bit architecture. "We have a very positive strategy. We are breaking open the enterprise business as well as SMB, where we've traditionally been."

AMD said it has made those inroads with help from three major OEMs—IBM, Sun Microsystems, and HP—which have snapped up Opteron for use in enterprise-class systems. That Tier 1 vote of approval has helped cultivate demand in the channel.

"With Opteron, we've delivered servers with a broad range of price points," Kathleen Denlinger, Americas presales director for HP's channel sales group, told the audience. Most recently, HP has released two Proliant server models equipped with Opteron.

But last night's most immediate call to reseller action came from Microsoft. Tom Perrier, partner group manager for Microsoft's U.S. channel sales operation, highlighted support for Opteron's anti-virus instruction in the just-released Windows XP SP2. The instruction, informally called a "no execute," disables a series of recent viruses that have invaded memory overflow buffers to disable PCs. The instruction is also supported in 64-bit versions of Linux from Red Hat and SuSE, and in Sun's Solaris operating system.

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"We're allowing our partners to go to our TechNet Website to get the SP2 download now, before it goes live on Aug. 25," Perrier said. "This gives VARs time to evaluate it so they can have a proactive conversation with their customers."

Beyond the antivirus instruction, Perrier explained that SP2 is significant because it includes the fruits of Microsoft's latest security initiative. "This is one of the most important upgrades ever, because of its focus on e-mail, Web surfing and networking security," he said.

In addition, AMD's deFrere spoke about the Direct Connect Architecture (DCA) that's at the heart of the Opteron processor. "All the components are directly connected together," he said.

The DCA uses an ultra-fast memory controller, which AMD has integrated onboard the chip. Such placement enables faster memory accesses, since data doesn't have to traverse a traditional Northside bus.

Moving forward, expect AMD next year to gear up marketing efforts for Opteron's sister processor, the Athlon 64 desktop CPU. That chip is expected to take off in client-side systems once Microsoft ships a 64-bit-capable version of its Windows XP operating system. That release, which is currently in beta testing and is separate from the SP2 upgrade, could ship in the first quarter of 2005.

With Opteron and Athlon 64, AMD has sparked enthusiasm among end users by creating a whole new category of hybrid processors. The CPUs run standard 32-bit programs and use a set of 64-bit instruction-set extensions to execute 64-bit software applications.

On the competitive front, Intel recently answered back at AMD with a new Xeon fitted with Intel's own implementation of 64-bit instruction-set extensions, dubbed EM64T.