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AMD unmasks Opterons of servers future

Faces for 'Magny Cours' and 'San Marino'

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And now to San Marino...

AMD has said precious little about the "San Marino" server platform and its Lisbon processors, now known as the Opteron 4100. Up until today, we did know that the Lisbon chips would have four or six cores and would be available in single-socket and dual-socket machines with two memory channels per socket instead of the four in the Opteron 6100s.

In late September, AMD expanded its homegrown Fiorano server chipset to include geared-down I/O hubs - the SR5650 and the SR5670 - that are paired with the SP5100 southbridge. These two new chipsets, as El Reg explained in September, have fewer PCI Express lanes and engines for peripheral processing, but they burn a bit less juice too, which is important for hyperscale computing environments where there are tens or hundreds of thousands of servers deployed. Every little bit of juice used and heat dissipated adds up.

As it turns out, to get the price of the San Marino platform low, the C32 processor socket that the Opteron 4100 series of chips will use will be a tweaked version of the 1,207-pin Rev F socket. AMD has a habit of recycling slightly modified sockets - the AM2 socket is a rejiggered Rev E with an extra pin, for instance - and does this because motherboard makers and system designers have lots of experience with established sockets. The C32 socket and its Opteron 4100 chips will be keyed slightly differently so people can't accidentally cram the wrong kind of chip into the socket.

As with the Opteron 6100s, the 4100s will use the same 45 nanometer processes at GlobalFoundries and will come in three power bands: 75 standard parts, 55 watt HE parts, and 35 watt Extremely Efficient (EE) parts. That EE chip, by the way, is 5 watts cooler than its Istanbul cousin, which burns 40 watts.

The other bit of news coming out today from AMD is that the engineers have cooked up a special version of the San Marino platform called "Adelaide," which is a super low-voltage, low cost platform aimed at cloud and hyperscale data centers. The Adelaide platform only supports HT1 links, which burn a lot less power than HT3, and will only support the Opteron 4100 EE part as well.

Only the lowest-power chipset (the SR5650 I/O hub/SP5100 southbridge pairing) is supported, and customers have to use low-voltage DDR3 main memory in the boxes as well. By making all of these changes, Fruehe says that AMD can get the power consumed by a two-socket server platform down by between 10 to 15 watts. That may not seem like a lot, until you are talking about 100,000 servers.

One last thing. The future "Valencia" chip due in 2011, using the new Bulldozer core from AMD, will plug into this 1,207-pin C32 socket. So customers who buy San Marino and Adelaide platforms next year will have a chip with six or eight cores that they can plug into the same boxes without making any other changes. You can find out more about the Bulldozer cores and their future chips here.

The Opteron 4100s are due in the second quarter of 2010. AMD has not been more precise about when in the quarter that might be. ®

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