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AMD cranks up Opteron clocks

Before Bulldozer, a few more megahertz

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8.7 per cent more oomph

The Opteron 6180 SE at the top of the table has about 8.7 per cent more oomph, based on raw clock speed, and at $1,514, the price is 8.5 per cent higher than the original Opteron 6176 SE part from last year. Sun Microsystems was the most enthusiastic supporter of the SE parts, believing that the extra oomph gave it an edge in the HPC space. But Oracle, after acquiring Sun last year, quietly killed off its Opteron products, so it is unclear who uses the SE parts. There's probably a financial services company monkeying around with your retirement funds on a few racks of these sitting near an exchange.

The 2.3 GHz twelve-core Opteron 6176 is the new top-end standard part, and should deliver a mere 4.5 per cent performance improvement over the 2.2 GHz Opteron 6174; it costs 8.6 per cent more money than the Opteron 6174, however, making it not a particularly good dead. But that is not the important comparison that AMD customers will be making. The important thing now is that the Opteron 6176 is a standard part burning at 80 watts instead of 105 watts and costs 9 per cent less than last year's Opteron 6176 SE part, which had the same performance.

The 2.6 GHz Opteron 6140 is now the fastest eight-core Magny-Cours processor, and it comes in an 80 watt thermal envelope and costs $989. This chip delivers 8.3 per cent more raw clock oomph than the 2.4 GHz Opteron 6136, but it costs 32.9 per cent more (and the same as the twelve-core Opteron 6172 running at 2.1 GHz). This is not a particularly good deal, but HPC customers using Cray's XT6 and XE6 supercomputers as well as those building or buying dense clusters to run HPC-style codes that need the fasted clock cycles they can get their hands on will look at these chips.

Then again, if they need the highest clock speeds and don't care as much about threads, virtual or physical, Intel has faster six-core Xeon 5600s that push up to 3.33 GHz and even four-core variants that can be pushed even as high as 3.46 GHz. These chips also cost $1,663 a pop when you buy in 1,000-unit trays.

There are two new low-voltage Opteron HE parts that are coming out today. The Opteron 6166 HE runs at 1.8 GHz, has twelve cores, and costs $873. That is 5.9 per cent more clocks than the Opteron 6164 HE for 17.3 per cent more dough. (Again, not a great deal.) The Opteron 6132 HE runs at 2.2 GHz in its 65 watt ACP envelope and costs $591. That's 10 per cent more performance for 13 per cent more money over the 2 GHz Opteron 6128 HE.

These chips are pretty much all that is coming out from AMD on the Opteron front this year until the Bulldozer-based chips - presumably to be called the Opteron 4200 (Valencia) and 6200 (Interlagos) for the C32 and G34 sockets, respectively - come out.

"We have no plans to do anything with the Opteron 4100 because we have the Bulldozer coming so close at hand," John Fruehe, director of product marketing for server/workstation products at AMD, tells El Reg.

The Opteron 4100s, which launched in June 2010, come with a single four-core or six-core chips in a package. The Opteron 4100s have slightly higher clock speeds and better thermals with ACP ratings of 75 watts for standard parts and 50 watts for HE parts. There are even 32 watt parts, the Extremely Efficient, or EE, variants. These C32-socket chips are used in servers with one or two sockets, and they are very inexpensive compared to the Opteron 6100s. (Which stands to reason with the core counts being half.) That said, AMD could probably sort through the bins and find 3 GHz or even 3.2 GHz Opteron 4100s if it wanted to.

Fruehe says that Interlagos will go into production in the second quarter using GlobalFoundries' 32 nanometer processes, followed in short order by the Valencia chips. (Interlagos will pack 12 or 16 cores, while Valencia will have six or eight cores.) Both chips will launch at the same time in the third quarter and be adopted shortly thereafter by HP, Dell, Acer, Cray, and IBM, but Interlagos will be "first through the pipe" to put more pressure on Intel and try to get some year-end server market share. ®

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