AMD, Intel Rev Their Engines As Race Heats Up

With Intel's release earlier this month of its new 32-bit Xeon processors, code-named Nocona, which are compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit software, as well as an early announcement by AMD of new dual-core chips, the channel is getting a double-barrel of news and guidance.

"I really want the white- box suppliers to understand this [dual-core announcement] should accelerate this business and not in any way delay it," said Barry Crume, director of product planning for the Server/ Workstation Business segment at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD. Crume said system builders will be able to "sell systems that are already dual-core, pre-enabled" before dual-core chips are on the market.



>> AMD preannounces 'dual-core' strategy.
>> Intel says it hopes new Nocona processors will quiet Opteron discussion.
>> Solution providers say that new road maps and technology from both vendors will be adopted over time.

AMD said it will ship dual-core processors to the market in mid-2005 for servers and for high-end client PCs in the second half of 2005. AMD made its preannouncement in light of the market acceptance for its 64-bit Opteron processor for servers, Crume said.

"I would say for AMD this is new territory," he said. "We wanted to mark that milestone in the industry. We are developing our personality here in the industry and wanting to keep end users and our partner customers informed about our progress."

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Crume said that while AMD has a design in place for the dual-core, x86-based processors, it does not yet have any processor production samples in hand. "We have only done some test runs on the database. We will have first silicon in the next few weeks," he said.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel in early June said it would hasten its move to dual-core processors and begin shipping them by next year, eventually including them throughout its product line. Intel also said it hopes its Nocona Xeon processors will silence much of the discussion around the backward-compatibility of AMD's 64-bit Opteron processors with 32-bit software.

When discussing dual-core plans with financial analysts in New York, Intel executives unveiled a wafer for the upcoming Montecito dual-core processor, saying it had reached first silicon on the technology. An Intel spokesman, though, could not say when testing samples would be available.

For system builders, the news from Intel and AMD did not appear to have an immediate impact.

"We see it as a road map right now," said Ray Rueda, president of Honor International, a Miami-based solution provider and system builder. "We don't see a lot of [interest], not even from our end users."

However, Rueda said he believes the technology could be important in spurring sales when the processors ship to market, provided there is clear evidence dual-core technology will boost performance.

"Obviously, it has to be seen as increasing performance in real-life applications," Rueda said. "We have good hope with this dual-core processor technology. It has the potential to make all the corporate customers renew their old equipment."

Testing and pricing issues must also be tackled before the news has an impact, solution providers said.

"It's probably going to take a little bit until we have a real product and it's road-tested for people to kind of come around," said Jonathan Landy, national accounts manager at Rackmaster Systems, a Shakopee, Minn.-based system builder. "Also, price is a big issue. It always is."