AMD Delivers First 45nm Shanghai Chips Early

server Opteron

AMD, which had originally planned to launch Shanghai early next year, was able to launch its next-generation Shanghai chips ahead of schedule thanks to an exceptionally smooth validation process that saved AMD a full "silicon spin," said Randy Allen, head of AMD's Computing Solutions Group.

Allen attributed part of the success in getting Shanghai out ahead of schedule to lessons learned from Barcelona, AMD's first quad-core product, which had a glitch at launch that caused about a quarter's delay in its volume ramp.

AMD's transition to the 45nm fabrication process comes about a year after larger rival Intel introduced its first 45nm processors for both servers and desktops, later transitioning its notebook chips to the new process as well. Intel made the leap from 65nm to 45nm by reinventing the metal gate in its transistors, but AMD, working with IBM, chose to pioneer new methods of immersion lithography to achieve its latest die shrink.

AMD, Sunnyvale, Calif., Thursday unveiled the first nine Shanghai processors for two-, four- and eight-socket x86 servers in its Opteron stable. These include five Opteron 2000 series chips ranging in clock speed from 2.3GHz to 2.7GHz and four Opteron 8000 series chips ranging from 2.4GHz to 2.7GHz. All nine quad-core chips are socket-compatible with the previous Barcelona generation and slot into the 75W thermal envelope.

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AMD has priced its first Shanghai chips aggressively against the older Barcelona models. The 2.5GHz Opteron 2380, for example, is in the middle of the new Opteron 2000 series stack but costs just $8 more than the fastest Barcelona-class equivalent, the 2.3GHz Opteron 2356, which sells for $690. Similarly, the new 2.5GHz Opteron 8380 costs the same—$1,514—as the older 2.3GHz 8356.

Full product names and prices for the new Opteron 2000 series are: Opteron 2376 (2.3GHz, $377), Opteron 2378 (2.4GHz, $523), Opteron 2380 (2.5GHz, $698), Opteron 2382 (2.6GHz, $873), Opteron 2384 (2.7GHz, $989). The full list of new Opteron 8000 series chips is: Opteron 8378 (2.4GHz, $1,165), Opteron 8380 (2.5GHz, $1,514), Opteron 8382 (2.6GHz, $1,865), Opteron 8384 (2.7GHz, $2,149).

Low-power 55W and high-performance 105W versions of Shanghai are scheduled for release early next year, according to AMD. The chip maker has also confirmed the release of 45nm desktop chips, code-named Deneb, in the first-quarter 2009 timeframe, though some reports have the first Deneb processors hitting the market before the end of this year.

AMD partners such as John Lee, vice president of Advanced Technology Solutions at Milpitas, Calif.-based Appro International, believe Shanghai solidifies the chip maker's hold on the four-socket server space.

"The advantages of four-socket, utilizing the Direct Connect architecture, are huge. With HyperTransport, it makes migration very easy and affordable. Performance scales linearly," Lee said.

"We're very excited to launch general-purpose servers, commodity clusters and supercomputers on Shanghai. Customers are testing Shanghai systems now and they are seeing improved performance while consuming less power," he added.

Meanwhile, microprocessor market leader Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., has its own big product news coming up. The chip giant will officially launch the first three processors built with its new Nehalem micro-architecture early next week.