AMD plans 16-core server chip -- but not until 2011

'Interlagos' version of Opteron to follow 12-core processor that's due for release next year

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said today that it's designing a server processor with up to 16 cores, which would quadruple the count in the company's existing quad-core Opteron chips.

But the new chip, which is code-named Interlagos and slated to support between 12 and 16 processor cores, will be a long time coming. The processor won't be released until 2011, AMD officials said during a webcast press conference. They added that Interlagos will be a follow-up to a 12-core processor code-named Magny-Cours that AMD plans to release in next year's first quarter.

According to AMD, the future 16-core chips will be able to go into servers with two to four processor sockets, resulting in a maximum of 64 cores per system. The chip will be part of the vendor's Opteron 6000 series, which AMD officials said will be used primarily in data center servers.

Increasing the core counts in chips is a way for AMD and microprocessor market leader Intel Corp. to improve performance while trying to reduce power consumption. It also can lower the number of servers needed in data centers, which should help cut hardware acquisition and energy costs for customers, said Pat Patla, vice president of AMD's server platform unit.

AMD will take an initial step beyond its current four-core limit next month. During a conference call yesterday on its first-quarter financial results, which included a $416 million net loss, the company said it will ship a six-core Opteron code-named Istanbul in May, one month earlier than expected.

When the Interlagos chips are ready for release, they likely will be targeted at servers that handle workloads requiring plenty of processing power, such as hosting databases and running simulations, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research in Cave Creek, Ariz. "It will be a while before 16 cores is mainstream," he said.

The Opteron line competes with Intel's Xeon server chip family. Intel released the six-core Xeon 7400 series last September. But thus far, the largest Xeon it has discussed publicly is an eight-core chip code-named Nehalem EX, due for release next year.

Intel also has announced plans for a "many-core" chip called Larrabee that is scheduled to ship in early 2010, but that is a graphics processor targeted at AMD's ATI product line and devices from Nvidia Corp.

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