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AMD launches Opteron

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Update It should have been here nearly 18 months ago, but AMD finally got its Opteron dual 32-bit/64-bit server processor out the door today, launching the chip formerly known as Sledgehammer at a flash bash in New York City.

AMD has three Opterons on offer, with the promise of more to come. Today's launch centred on the 240, 242 and 244, all aimed at dual-processor systems (hence the '2'), but AMD expects to get the 840, 842 and 844, for systems with up to eight CPUs, to market next month.

A chip for uni-processor machines, the 144, is coming too, but won't ship until Q3.

Each Opteron contains its own DDR SDRAM controller, handling 200, 266 and 333MHz memory clock frequencies. The chip also features an on-die HyperTransport interface, capable of maintaining three 6.4GBps coherent links. Interestingly, one difference between the Athlon 64 and the Opteron is the number of HT links supported: Athlon 64 supports only one.

All the Opterons are based on 0.13 micron silicon-on-insulator technology. Even so, the die contains around 105.9 million transistors - many of them providing the 1MB of L2 cache - all crammed into a 193mm squared area. That's large, and with clock speeds reaching 1.8GHz (the 244) and a 1.55V core voltage, Opteron pumps out up to 89W.

The Athlon 64 should run rather more coolly. Head of AMD's processor business, Dirk Meyer, said that chip will have a die size under 120mm squared - probably due to reduced L2 cache, we'd imagine. Certainly AMD needs to do something to get the size down if it's to get the parts into mobile systems, as it has promised.

Ditto high-density servers, which is why we believe we're having to wait so long for the Opteron 144 - almost certainly it will use the same approaches utilised to shrink the Athlon 64.

By then we should also see a native, 64-bit version of Windows for the chip. Windows Server 2003 will support 32-bit operation on the Opteron at launch, but a 64-bit version won't ship until the summer, and then only as a beta release, Microsoft said today.

Linux users are better placed: SuSE has 64-bit Opteron support available now, as does Mandrake and Turbolinux. NetBSD support comes via Wasabi.

Applications now supporting Opteron's 64-bit mode include Computer Associates' Advantage Ingres RDBMS and IBM's DB2. Oracle is on its way too.

Pricing for the three chips available today is $794, $690 and $283, for the 244, 242 and 240, respectively. AMD will continue to offer the Athlon MP, but versions below the 2000+ have been discontinued. ®

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