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AMD pegs mid-2007 for complete chip overhaul

Quad-core and how

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AMD today dangled a couple of key dates in front of customers, hoping to keep them sweet in the coming years instead of defecting back to Intel.

The chip maker has long promised to ship a four-core server processor in 2007. At its analyst conference here, AMD solidified that date by saying that the four-core product will arrive in the "middle of next year." Optimistic AMD supporters hoped the company might surprise customers and rival Intel by shipping this product in early 2007, but it seems AMD has run out of real surprises.

On the manufacturing front, AMD vowed to keep pace with Intel as best it can. It will start production shipments of processors built on a 65nm process in the fourth quarter of this year and then shift to a 45nm process by mid-2008

"We do not expect to be materially behind our competitor," said Daryl Ostrander, AMD's manufacturing guru, exuding confidence.

AMD's manufacturing skills have come into question due to the high demand for its chips. Some analysts have wondered if AMD can keep up with customers in the coming years. AMD believes that improved manufacturing will leave it "fully positioned to service one-third of the market by 2008" and with a 4x capacity improvement by 2009.

Back to the chips, AMD laid out plans to ship new cores for its server, desktop and mobile lines in 2007. In the server market, AMD expects to show a 60 per cent performance per watt boost in 2007 and a 150 per cent boost in 2008. The quad-core cihp should show between 2x and 3x performance improvements on HPC, client/server, Java and database software, AMD said.

AMD additionally revealed a Socket 4x4 motherboard that will let hardcore gamers slot two dual-core chips into their PCs.

AMD already unveiled more specific design details for its upcoming chips at a conference last month.

Partners Sun Microsystems and Rackable Systems also made an appearance at the AMD analyst day.

Sun's server chief John Fowler said the company is "on the cusp of bringing forth some new products" based on Opteron. The server maker is expected to announce an eight-socket system, new blades servers and storage systems built around AMD's chip.

Some of these new designs will "bring longevity to the x86 market," Fowler said. Customers can expect to see chassis designs that will last for between five and seven years. Basically, Sun hopes to carry its Unix systems expertise to the x86 realm.

Rackable's CEO Tom Barton stole the show by announcing that 90 per cent of the company's server and storage sales are for Opteron products. That's a huge blow for Intel, which is also a Rackable supplier.

Rackable sells a ton of boxes to Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon, so you can count all of them as Opteron customers. ®

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