AMD announces $US99 quad-core chip for cloud servers

AMD's successor to Istanbul draws less power

Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday announced a new family of microprocessors for cloud computing servers, including one chip priced at US$99.

The chips belong to the Opteron 4100 family and come in six-core and four-core variants. Previously code-named Lisbon, they draw less power than their predecessors while achieving the same levels of performance, said Brent Kerby, senior product manager at AMD.

The processors include the $99 Opteron 4122 processor, which is AMD's first server chip priced under $100. The quad-core chip operates at a speed of 2.2GHz, includes a total of 8.6MB of cache and draws 75 watts of power. By comparison, Intel's cheapest server processor is priced at $167, according to a processor price list issued on June 20.

There's a movement toward having huge arrays of cloud computing servers with cheap chips that can quickly scale performance, said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.

"The question now is, can you take a huge number of inexpensive, low-power chips and get useful work out of them?" Olds said.

Companies like SeaMicro and Tilera this month introduced specialized 512-core servers designed for cloud computing. SeaMicro announced a server that packs 512 single-core Intel Atom processors in one server.

The $99 quad-core Opteron will draw more power than any low-power Atom chip, but also perform much faster, Olds said. The question remains whether traditional servers with cheap Opteron chips are a better option for scale-out environments than specialized servers.

The Opteron 4100 lineup also includes two six-core processors -- the Opteron 4162 EE and 4164 EE -- that draw just 32 watts of power. That is the lowest power threshold achieved by any generation of the company's server processors yet, Kerby said. The 4162 EE runs at 1.7GHz and is priced at $316, while the 4164 EE runs at 1.8GHz and is priced at $698.

The company also announced five Opteron 4100-series six-core chips that draw between 50 watts and 75 watts. The chips run at speeds between 2.1GHz and 2.8GHz and are priced between $174 and $316. The chips are also targeted at single- and two-socket servers in scale-out environments.

The new chips reduce power consumption by 24 percent compared to their predecessors, according to the company. The power benefits come partly from the improved product manufacturing process, Kerby said. The processors are made using the 45-nanometer process.

The chips also support DDR3 memory, which is faster and more power-efficient than the previous DDR2 memory. Some chip-level improvements and advanced power management features like power capping at the hardware level could also lower power consumption in servers.

Socket compatibility will also allow AMD's future server chips to be plugged into servers, Kerby said. Next year AMD plans to release a server processor with up to 16 cores based on a new microarchitecture called Bulldozer.

The Opteron 4100 chips are available worldwide immediately. Server makers including Acer, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are expected to announce servers soon, AMD said.

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