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AMD: OEMs primed for Opteron 6100s

Tier one server makers MIA

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This being the week when Intel is rolling out its six-core Xeon 5600 processors for the workhorse two-socket server market, it's a little tough for rival Advanced Micro Devices to get some attention.

But the "Westmere-EP" hubbub is starting to die down, and AMD thought this was a good time to remind everyone that it has its own server chips due any minute now, and it has partners lined up to peddle boxes based on them.

The launch of the Opteron 6100s is widely expected on March 29, the day before Intel formally unveils its high-end eight-core "Nehalem-EX" Xeon 7500s. The Opteron 6100s are eight-core and twelve-core processors (also known by their "Magny-Cours" development code name) that will be plunked into two-socket and four-socket servers.

The chips are based on tweaked versions of the current six-core "Istanbul" Opteron 2400 and 8400 processors, with the cores being essentially the same but with support for DDR3 main memory in the on-chip memory controllers and support for HyperTransport 3 (HT3) interconnects.

AMD is also taking a page out of the Intel, IBM and Hewlett-Packard chip playbooks and is packaging up two chips in a single ceramic package that share a single G34 socket. AMD is getting to a dozen cores in a socket by putting two six-shooters side by side; an eight core is comprised of two chips, each with two dud cores, working in tandem in a single socket.

The Opteron 6100s are also the first server platform in a long time that will rely on AMD's own chipsets. The original Opterons back in 2003 had AMD chipsets as an option, with Broadcom, Nvidia, and VIA Technologies, and a few esoteric server makers (many now defunct) doing their own as well.

With the Opteron 6100 and their baby brothers for one-socket and two-socket boxes, the Opteron 6100s (code-named "Lisbon" and using a modified Socket F socket called the C32), AMD is thus far the only chipset maker for the Opteron 6100s, unless you want to count 3Leaf Systems and its Voyager shared memory ASIC for turning clusters of servers into shared memory systems.

To remind everyone that AMD still exists as a resurgent Intel is getting all of the attention, AMD said today that there are plenty of mobos and systems that are "ready for Q1 launch". Three days before the end of the quarter, mind you.

And while the list of Opteron 6100 motherboard and system makers has some important names on it, the one put out by AMD today is missing some important names as well: Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, and Sun Microsystems Oracle.

Motherboard makers ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, Super Micro, and Tyan, who are all going to put Socket G34 mobos into the field as part of the Opteron 6100 launch in two weeks, were trotted out to say nice things about the new chip and chipset. And AMD got a slew of tier two or niche server makers to say they were ready to roll "in the coming weeks" with Magny-Cours systems, including Appro, Atipa Technologies, Colfax, Directron, Microway, Nortech, Penguin Computing, Servers Direct, Silicon Graphics, Silicon Mechanics, and ZT Systems. (For some reason, Super Micro was left off the list of server makers supporting the chips, which is odd given that Super Micro is the king of the whitebox server makers and is no doubt ready to go with Opteron 6100 systems.)

While there is nothing wrong with any of these vendors - many of which sell Xeon-based products, and a few of which even push out an Itanium box to keep Intel happy - what AMD needs, and has always needed, is tier one support for its desktop and server chips.

Presumably, AMD was just giving the little guys a chance to talk before the tier ones hog all the headlines two weeks from now. If AMD, by some freak chance, is losing tier one support for the Opterons, that would be very bad indeed. Unless you are Intel, of course. ®

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