Analysis: Vendors queuing up for new Opterons

Bad news for Intel as Opterons prove popular despite Xeon improvements and price cuts

The battle for the hearts and minds of server vendors was cranked up a gear this week with the official launch of AMD's dual core Revision F Opteron processors.

All of the big names in the server world have pledged support for the new chips, but Intel is fighting back with all of those vendors also backing the recently released dual core "Woodcrest" Xeon processor, based on its enhanced Core architecture.

AMD is claiming performance increases of up top 20 per cent with the Revision F design compared to current Opterons. The new chips also support DDR-2 memory and the company's long awaited virtualization technology, Pacifica, now called AMD-V

Unfortunately, unlike Intel's Woodcrest, a new socket is required to accommodate the updated Opteron chips, which means that existing customers will have to replace their servers to benefit. However, they will be able to drop quad core processors into the same socket when they become available, and gain an even more significant performance boost.

With this in mind AMD has also announced completion of the design stage of the quad-core Opteron, with production likely to start in the middle of 2007.

Among vendors to announce products based on the new dual core Opterons is HP which, coincident with the AMD launch, unveiled seven new rack mount ProLiant and HP BladeSystem servers with sockets for the chips. IBM is similarly embracing the technology and, as reported on IT Pro is leveraging the HyperTransport technology used by AMD to enable its blade servers to be upgraded from two to four processors simply by plugging in a daughterboard.

Sun Microsystems has also announced a clutch of new servers based on the Revision F Opterons leaving Dell as the only tier one supplier without an Opteron product. However, that gap is et to be filled, Dell having announced back in May its intention to deliver an Opteron based product later this year.

According to figures from Mercury Research, AMD has established an estimated 26% share of the x86 server market since it introduced the Opteron in 2003. The new chips further strengthen its hand but, at the same time, the introduction of Woodcrest should enable Intel to halt its recent decline.

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