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Google has become an Opteron convert despite having Intel CEO Paul Otellini on its board, according to an analyst report.

Mark Edelstone at Morgan Stanley has Google shifting into Opteron or bust mode. The server hungry ad broker, like many, has turned to AMD's speedy 64-bit chip for performance and power saving gains, he said in a research report. If true, such a shift away from Intel's Xeon would be a huge boost for AMD and the server vendor or vendors Google has picked.

"Based on our various research efforts, we believe that most of Google's near-term server purchases will use AMD's Opteron for the first time," the analyst wrote.

"We believe that Google currently has an installed base of more than 200,000 servers, and we believe that they will help AMD to enjoy a significant sequential increase in their server business in the first quarter."

The analyst backs what AMD has long claimed and proven in various tests - that it has a serious performance per watt advantage over Intel. Power savings have risen to priority number one at Google as energy costs and energy supply have become constraints.

A source also in the financial analyst community said, "I heard (about the switch) a long time ago. Word is finally leaking out. I heard that Google was in the process of switching to AMD, while Google was on stage at the last Intel Developer Forum."

The analyst added that Sun was the likely supplier of the Opteron gear.

Sun might appear as Google's most likely Opteron partner given the companies' close ties. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was once a top executive at Sun, and the two vendors announced a toolbar deal a few months back.

A vendor like Supermicro, however, would seem more in keeping with Google's style of buying basic, no frills boxes and steering clear of the Tier I crowd.

A Google embrace of Opteron would have to send some interesting signals to Intel and Dell.

Intel's Otellini, who sits on Google's board, has presided over one of the worst runs in recent history for the chip giant. Intel remains years away from matching AMD on basic server chip technology.

Intel-only shop Dell has watched its server revenue growth slow in the wake of the Opteron rush. Prized high performance computing customers have looked at Opteron as their first choice for many months now, and - with Google - it seems a broader shift away from Xeon is happening.

We dare not even ask Google for comment on the story given the secretive nature of the beast. The crazy kids at Google have refused repeated requests for us to come look at their colored balls in person. ®

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