AMD Comes Roaring Back With 12-Core Magny-Cours Chips

For the first time in a long time, Advanced Micro Devices has something that archrival Intel doesn't: a 12-core processor, part of the Opteron 6000 series of server chips that the chip maker officially released Monday.

"As AMD has done before, we are again redefining the server market based on current customer requirements," said Patrick Patla, vice president and general manager of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD's Server and Embedded Divisions. "The AMD Opteron 6000 Series platform signals a new era of server value, significantly disrupts today's server economics and provides the performance-per-watt, value and consistency customers demand for their real-world data center workloads."

AMD unveiled its Opteron 6000 series, formerly code named Magny-Cours, as part of the rollout of the company's first new server platform in years, dubbed Maranello. While AMD has in recent years argued for its architectural and price-for-performance advantages over Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel's Xeon server chips, the five new 12-core Opterons in the initial 6100 series represent the smaller chip maker's first major advantage on core count since beating Intel to dual-core processors in 2006.

Magny-Cours is a 45-nanometer processor that marks the end of the line for AMD's long-standing, DDR2-designed Socket F, which has supported successive generations of dual-core, quad-core and six-core Opteron chips since the CPU socket's introduction on Aug. 15, 2006. The eight-core and 12-core Opteron 6100 series chips use a new socket, Socket G34, that supports four DDR3 channels.

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Much as preceding Opteron generations used Socket F for several years, Patla promised similar "investment protection" going forward with the Opteron 6000 series and the Opteron 4000 series, code named Lisbon, a family of six-core and eight-core chips set to be released in the second quarter of 2010.

The next major refresh of the Opteron lineup occurs in 2011, when AMD will transition to the 32nm fabrication process and its future Bulldozer core architecture. At that time, Magny-Cours will be succeed by Opteron 6000 series chips code named Interlagos and Lisbon will be succeed by a new Opteron 4000 series code named Valencia.

Some of the performance gains AMD is touting for the new processors inlude an 88 percent increase in integer performance and a 119 percent increase in floating performance over its previous generation of six-core Istanbul chips. Such gains combine to help Magny-Cours processors "perform at up to two times the level" of the Istanbul chips, according to AMD.

The move to DDR3 memory -- the Maranello platform supports four channels for two times or more the memory bandwidth supported by the old Socket F motherboards -- gives AMD an edge over the current triple-channel boards from Intel on memory channels per processors.

Equally important for AMD, the new chips mark the transition to its long-awaited HyperTransport 3.0 technology via the chip maker's new 5600 series chipset. The 5600 series also supports PCI Express 2.0 and has new virtualization capabilities.

Where AMD hopes to make the most impact in its battle with Intel for pride of place in servers and workstations, however, is part of an old story -- price. While prices for Intel's most powerful Xeon processors top $3,500, the priciest Opteron 6100 series chip is $1,386 in 1,000-unit quanities. Here's a breakdown of specs and prices for Magny-Cours:

Opteron 6100 Series

Opteron 6124 HE (eight cores, 1.8GHz, 65W, 12MB L3 cache): $455

Opteron 6128 (eight cores, 2.0GHz, 80W, 12MB L3 cache): $266

Opteron 6128 HE (eight cores, 2.0GHz, 65W, 12MB L3 cache): $523

Opteron 6134 (eight cores, 2.3GHz, 80W, 12MB L3 cache): $523

Opteron 6136 (eight cores, 2.4GHz, 80W, 12MB L3 cache): $744

Opteron 6164 HE (12 cores, 1.7GHz, 67W, 12MB L3 cache): $744

Opteron 6168 (12 cores, 1.9GHz, 80W, 12MB L3 cache): $744

Opteron 6172 (12 cores, 2.1GHz, 80W, 12MB L3 cache): $989

Opteron 6174 (12 cores, 2.2GHz, 80W, 12MB L3 cache): $1,165

Opteron 6176 SE (12 cores, 2.3GHz, 105W, 12MB L3 cache): $1,386