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AMD Boosts Opteron Performance With More Cores

The new 8-core and 12-core server processors are socket-compatible with the previous Opteron series, giving customers the option of boosting performance without replacing the server.

Advanced Micro Devices has introduced 8-core and 12-core Opteron server processors for powering high-performance computing, databases, and virtualization.

The 6100 series launched Monday is made up of two 8-core and three 12-core chips. All are compatible with the G34 socket, which is the same used for the 6000 series, giving customers the option of boosting power by swapping out the chips, not replacing the servers, Steve Demski, product manager for AMD's server division, said in an interview. A BIOS upgrade is needed to run the new processors.

AMD launched the latest chips with lots of support from computer makers and system builders. Companies with products available include Acer, Appro, Cray Inc., Colfax, Dawning, Dell, HP, Microway, NCS Technologies, Inc., Nor-Tech, Penguin, SGI, Silicon Mechanics and ZT Systems. For example, Dell on Monday introduced the PowerEdge C6145. Each server in the rack can hold up to four processors for a total of 48 cores using the latest AMD chips.

The two new 8-core processors include the 6132 HE, which has a clock speed of 2.2 GHz and a thermal design power (TDP) of 65 watts. The second is the 2.6 GHz 6140 with a TDP of 80 watts.

The three 12-core models include the 1.8 GHz 6166 HE with a TDP of 65 watts, the 2.3 GHz 6176, which uses 80 watts, and the 2.5 GHz 6180 SE, which is the most power hungry at 105 watts.

High-performance computing and database applications are the targets of the latest products, along with virtualized environments within data centers. "Virtualization will take as many cores as you can throw at it," Demski said.

AMD is not stopping at 12 cores for the G34 socket. The company later this year plans to release a 16-core Opteron processor called Bulldozer. The processor is expected to improve performance by 50% to 60%, according to AMD.

Among the key features in the latest chips is the ability to enter a turbo mode that ups the core clock speed by an additional 500 MHz to handle a sudden rise in workload.

AMD has become a chip design company since spinning of its manufacturing unit last year into a separate company called GlobalFoundries. The company is undergoing dramatic management changes that started last month with the sudden resignation of chief executive Dirk Meyer. The CEO left after failing to convince the board he had a strong strategy for taking the company into new markets, such as the emerging category of tablet computers. Last week, the company's chief operation officer Bob Rivet resigned from the company to "pursue new opportunities."

Intel remains the clear leader in the server processor market, with its Xeon chip holding more than 80% of the market. Like AMD, Intel is also on a mission to increase the number of cores on a chip to rein in energy consumption while also boosting processor power for such heavy use as virtualization.

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