AMD Taking Opteron Into Telecom, Storage Apps

AMD today will unveil plans to take its 64-bit Opteron processor into new markets, launching a push to propel the CPU into storage, telecom and military applications. The key to the effort is a pledge by AMD to extend to five years the life cycle of Opterons it sells to embedded developers. The news will be disclosed in an announcement to be made at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco.

"The purpose of the announcement is to substantially expand our embedded business," says David Rich, director of 64-bit embedded markets at AMD. "Before we had this program, we would walk into some customers, and they'd say, 'We really like your product, and when you have long-term availability, come back to talk to us.'"

While AMD isn't offering any new technology or special versions of Opteron, what it is doing is giving vendors designing products for the embedded market the company's assurance that they will be able to get supplies of the processors they need for a lengthy period of time. Long product life-cycles, which aren't a factor in the fast-paced PC world, are a deal-breaker in the embedded arena.

"Without this program, most of the embedded market is really closed to [us]," Rich adds.

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To date, AMD's embedded efforts have centered on a mix of 16- and 32-bit microprocessors, ranging from the AM186 and Elan microcontrollers to the Alchemy and Geode processors. By bringing Opteron into the embedded arena, AMD is serving notice that it believes the market is ready for heavier duty 64-bit processing.

"These are all applications where the customers are very performance-hungry," says Rich, referring to the storage, imaging, high-end printing and other embedded applications where he expects Opteron to see service. According to Rich, some customers will come from the ranks of systems builders making storage servers powered by the Opteron.

In terms of marketplace positioning, AMD's Rich says he sees Opteron's competition as being IBM's Power architecture as well as MIPS-architecture processors sold by Broadcom and PMC-Sierra. However, Intel recently fielded a low-powered, embedded version of its 64-bit Xeon processor. The embedded Xeon is aimed at the same range of applications that AMD is going after with the Opteron, so the two parts should compete directly.