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AMD delivers more six-shooter Istanbul Opterons

Aiming high and low for Nehalem Xeons

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As planned, chip maker designer and seller Advanced Micro Devices will today trot out some additions to its six-core "Istanbul" Opteron processors for servers, adding faster and hotter versions of the chips as well as cooler and slower ones for the energy conscious.

The Istanbul chips were launched on June 1, and AMD said back then that it would quickly bring out its so-called Special Edition (SE) high-end versions of the chips. These sport higher clock speeds, but also burn at a hotter 105 watts, compared to the standard 75 watt parts, and the so-called Highly Efficient (HE) and low-voltage Energy Efficient (EE) parts, which dissipate 55 watts and 40 watts, respectively.

The HE chips are a bin sorting to figure out which standard Opteron parts can run at a lower amperage, while the EE chips actually run at a lower voltage. The SE chips crank up the clocks and therefore the heat.

The Istanbul SE and HE parts come out today, and according to Gina Longoria, senior product manager at AMD's Server and Workstation division, the EE parts will come out later in the third quarter.

Five Istanbul chips came out in June, all rated at the 75-watt standard thermals for the current crop of Rev F Opterons, including the quad-core "Shanghai" 2300 and 8300 series. (The standard Istanbuls are shown below in italics.) Prices shown below are per-chip prices if customers buy in 1,000-unit trays.

For four-socket and eight-socket systems:

  • Opteron 8439 SE: 2.8 GHz, $2,649
  • Opteron 8435: 2.6 GHz, $2,649
  • Opteron 8431: 2.4 GHz, $2,149
  • Opteron 8425 HE: 2.1 GHz, $1,514

For two socket-machines:

  • Opteron 2439 SE: 2.8 GHz, $1,019
  • Opteron 2435: 2.6 GHz, $989
  • Opteron 2431: 2.4 GHz, $698
  • Opteron 2427: 2.2 GHz, $455
  • Opteron 2425 HE: 2.1 GHz, $523
  • Opteron 2423 HE: 2 GHz, $455

Customers will very likely be underwhelmed by the Istanbul variants of the SE - the Opteron 2439 for two-socket servers and the Opteron 8439 for four-socket and eight-socket boxes - since they only boost the clock speed by 200 MHz over the standard Opteron 8435 and Opteron 2435 parts.

In the case of the Opteron 8439 SE, AMD is charging the same $2,649 as it charges for the slower 8435, so the only penalty customers pay to use the faster SE part is that 40 extra watts for the faster chips. In the case of the Opteron 2439 SE, AMD is charging a $30 premium for that extra 200 MHz of performance compared to the standard Opteron 2435 chip.

Longoria says that data centre customers are increasingly interested in the HE parts and are happy that AMD has brought the EE parts back to life, after mothballing them into embedded products for a few years. The SE chips are now mostly used by customers where absolute performance takes precedence over thermal issues, and while that may have been a pretty big set of the customer base back in the early days of single-core and dual-core Opterons, these days, depending on the quarter, Opteron SEs only account for somewhere around 3 to 5 per cent of total Opteron shipments.

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