AMD's 16-core Bulldozer pushes into the server room

AMD logoAMD released two new families of Opteron processors based on the companys Bulldozer architecture today, and previewed plans for a third, in the companys latest effort to take back market share from Intels Xeon CPU in the server market.

The Opteron 6200 series processors, previously known by the code-name "Interlagos," integrates two of the dies used for the desktop processor into a multi-chip module packing up to 16 cores, the most ever on an x86 processor. Opteron 6200s are targeted at the high-performance server market. The other new arrival, the Opteron 4200 series (previously known as "Valencia"), is focused on power efficiencyAMD claims it has the lowest power consumption per core of any x86 processor. But while both tout record-breaking features, the question is whether theyre significant enough to get customers to switch their infrastructure away from Intel.

AMD Server Product Marketing Manager Michael Detwiler told Ars that customers could see up to a 35 percent performance increase over AMDs Opteron 6100 series, the companys previous top-performance server processor. It could be anywhere from 25 percent to more than 35 percent, depending on workload they run, he said. Detweiler also claimed the Opteron 6200 had tested with up to 84% better performance in two-socket configurations than Intels Xeon 5600 series on some applicationsparticularly in floating-point processing heavy computing.

Some older server operating systems will encounter problems on the 6200 series. Detwiler said that the 6200 has been tested as compatible with Windows Server 2003 Release 2 service pack 3 and after. Any Linux based on the 2.6.31 kernel or earlier also failsincluding older versions of VMware ESX. Detwiler said that older Windows and Linux versions could still be run as virtualized operating systems on the platform.

The first official benchmarks for the 6200 give it an edge in other departments as well. In a set of Spec benchmarks released today on Hewlett-Packard server platforms done head-to-head with similarly configured Xeon systems, a dual configuration of the 2.56 Opteron 6282 SE turned in peak integer rates about 60% higher than those of a dual 2.4 Ghz Xeon E5645.

When you count the cores, that performance is a lot less impressivethe Xeons tested only had six cores per processor. So the Opteron 6282 SE's performance per core was actually only 61% of that of the Xeon processor.

But AMD's pitch for the Opteron 6200 series is all about price performance. The "top bin" Opteron 6200 processor is priced at $1,019, Detwiler saidnearly $100 less than its 6100 predecessor. And by packing more performance into lower-cost, more densely packed systems, AMD is hoping to win the hearts and minds of companies looking to save on rack space and power usage.

That's also the angle AMD is taking with its upcoming addition to the Opteron linethe 4200 series, code-named "Zurich." Another Bulldozer-based processor, the 4200 is targeted at hosting companies and big cloud service providers for dedicated Web hosting "micro-servers" and other applications. It will use a new socket type, and is designed to work with more desktop-like componentsallowing AMD to take on Atom-based and ARM-based servers.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: AMD, Bulldozer, CPUs, servers

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