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AMD announces fastest 16-core server chips as ARM future looms

New Opteron server chips include the new Piledriver cores

By Agam Shah
November 5, 2012 12:03 AM ET

IDG News Service - With a future in ARM servers looming, Advanced Micro Devices on Monday announced its fastest 16-core Opteron 6300 server chips as the company continues to enhance its x86 line-up.

The five new Opteron chips, code-named Abu Dhabi, are up to 40% faster on enterprise application workloads than the 1-year-old Opteron 6200 chips code-named Interlagos, which also had 16 cores, said John Williams, vice president for server marketing and business development at AMD. Depending on the workload, the performance boost could be as low as 7%.

The Opteron 6300 chips have clock speeds ranging from 1.8GHz to 3.5GHz, and the processors will be quicker at deploying virtual machines, Williams said. AMD is "heavily engaged" with virtualization partners like Red Hat and Microsoft to improve virtualization performance, Williams said.

The chips are designed for servers running public and private clouds, and for enterprise applications such as database and analytics programs.

The new chips are for 2- and 4-socket servers. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Cray, Silicon Graphics and others will use the processors in servers, and some system announcements are expected Monday.

AMD hopes the chips will provide a spark for its slumping server business. The company is also changing its strategy to include ARM-based servers, which it will start selling in 2014. However, AMD says x86 processors will remain a mainstay of its server business.

AMD's goal is to mix-and-match workloads between x86 and ARM servers, with the processing cores linked through an interconnect called Freedom Fabric, which works with both architectures.

"If there is a set of racks and you're adding in a number of racks with ARM clusters, you are likely going to run different workloads," Williams said.

Companies such as Facebook and Google buy a lot of servers, and there is a growing interest in compact ARM servers as a power-efficient way to process requests tied to search and social networks. AMD is moving to ARM servers to gain a larger market share of such power-efficient and dense machines.

Williams conceded that servers with Abu Dhabi chips right now may not be directly compatible with ARM servers in a data center. But AMD is trying to bring the architectures closer and in the future will be able to combine both ARM and x86 in a server installation. But companies will also need to port applications to work on ARM, which could take time, Williams said.

Beyond ARM, Williams said there is a lot of momentum behind the x86 Opteron server chips. AMD's previous Opteron 6200 chips are being used in the U.S. Department of Energy's 20-petaflop supercomputer called at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Opteron 6300 processors are being used in a supercomputer that will be installed at Indiana University next year, the university and AMD said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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