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AMD Launches 16-Core Opterons For Cloud

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AMD has introduced the first 16-core x86 processors. HP is using them for databases, HPC and the cloud

AMD on Monday launched its long-anticipated Opteron 6200 server processors, code-named “Interlagos”, the first x86 chips to include 16 processing cores. Hewlett-Packard was the first server maker to announce machines using the new processors.

The new chips, set to be officially unveiled on Monday at an event in Munich, are 25 to 30 percent faster than the 12-core Opteron 6100 chips that they succeed, according to AMD. HP has launched five new industry-standard servers in its ProLiant x86 lineup: the HP ProLiant BL465c G7, HP ProLiant BL685c G7, HP ProLiant DL385 G7, HP ProLiant DL585 G7 and HP ProLiant DL165 G7.

Consolidating workloads

The 6200 chips are designed specifically to allow companies to consolidate workloads onto fewer servers and to take advantage of cloud computing, according to Paul Struhsaker, AMD’s corporate vice president and general manager for commercial business.

“Our industry is at a new juncture; virtualisation has provided a new level of reliable consolidation and businesses are now looking to the cloud for even more agility and efficiency,” Struhsaker stated. “We designed the new AMD Opteron processor for this precise moment.”

The chipmaker has been shipping samples to server manufacturers from its Dresden plant since September, meaning Interlagos-based machines will begin arriving in the next few weeks from HP, Dell, Cray and Acer.

The 6200 chips are based on AMD’s modular “Bulldozer” processor design, which makes it easier for AMD to add more cores as well as other technologies as needed, the company said.

There are five chips in the 6200 range, running at clock speeds of between 1.6 GHz and 2.6 GHz and priced from $523 (£328) to $1,019, AMD said. The processors consume from 85 watts to 140 watts of power and can plug into the same sockets as the older 12-core chips.

Heavy threading

AMD said the chips are aimed at scalable applications with many threads, such as databases, cloud and high-performance computing. The company said Linux and Windows Server 2008 have both been specially tuned for the 16-core architecture.

The 6200 chips introduce a technology called Turbo Core that can boost clock speeds up to 500MHz across all cores if needed. A new mode called Max Turbo can bring in a performance boost of 1GHz by putting half of the cores to sleep, something that might be useful for workloads with only a few threads, AMD said.

AMD also introduced Opteron 4200 chips, code-named “Valencia”, with six or eight cores, running at 1.6GHz to 3GHz and priced from $125 to $377. The 4200 is designed for dense server set-ups that require low power consumption, with the chips using from 35 watts to 95 watts, or as low as 4.3 watts per core.

The 4200 chips support 1.25-volt memory components, cutting energy consumption by 16 percent, AMD said.

These chips include a feature that allows administrators to set a power consumption cap in increments of 1W in the chip’s BIOS. That means organisations with large data centres can configure their activities around a particular power budget, according to AMD.

Market share struggle

The new chips arrive as AMD loses server market share to Intel. In the second quarter of this year AMD held only 5.5 percent of the world’s server market, compared to 94.5 percent for Intel, according to recent figures from IDC.

Earlier this month AMD said it would lay off 10 percent of its workforce in an effort to cut more than $200 million (£125m) in expenses in 2012, and has reduced its revenue forecasts for the third quarter.

Executives said that the cost-cutting moves – which include not only the layoffs but also other efforts aimed at streamlining the company’s operations – are meant to better position AMD to pursue initiatives around low-power computing, emerging markets and the cloud, all areas that the company is putting a particular emphasis on going forward.

The goal will be to take a large portion of the savings gained through the workforce reduction and streamlining efforts and reinvest in R&D and strategic activities in the three primary focus areas.

The AMD-based HP ProLiant G7 use 2,048 cores per rack, and deliver up to a 40 percent increase in throughput for database work over previous AMD-based HP ProLiant servers.  They will be available on 29 November, with prices starting at €1550 for the HP ProLiant BL465c G7, €4770 for the HP ProLiant BL685c G7, €1590 for the HP ProLiant DL385 G7, €4000 for the HP ProLiant DL585 G7 and €1065 for the HP ProLiant DL165 G7.