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AMD Rounds Out 45-nm Opteron Line

The quad-core chips can plug into motherboards running AMD's older 65-nm Opterons, giving customers a quick speed boost.
Advanced Micro Devices on Monday launched low-power and high-end 45-nanometer Opteron server processors, rounding out the product line that previously offered only mainstream chips.

The latest chips, all quad-core, cover two-, four-, and eight-socket servers and can plug into the same motherboards running AMD's older 65-nm Opterons, which means customers can get a speed boost without replacing hardware, Brent Kerby, senior product marketing manager for AMD, told InformationWeek. A BIOS upgrade is needed for the new chips.

AMD's new products are in the 2000 and 8000 series, which are for two-socket servers and four- and eight-socket servers, respectively. They also carry the designations SE and HE, which indicate high performance and low power, respectively.

The models and prices per chip in batches of 1,000 include the 2386 SE, $1,165; the 8386 SE, $2,649; the 2376 HE, $575; the 2374 HE, $450; the 2372 HE, $316; the 8376 HE, $1,514; and the 8374 HE, $1,165. The high-performing chips consume a maximum of 105 watts and the low-power models consume 55 watts. AMD's mainstream Opterons run at a maximum of 75 watts.

The HE processors have a maximum clock speed of 2.3 GHz, and the high-end products a maximum of 2.8 GHz. Faster models of the latter chips are scheduled to ship in the second quarter. AMD also plans to ship 45-nm Opteron processors tailored for cloud computing environments this year, but has yet to release details. In late 2009, AMD is scheduled to ship a six-core server chip.

The latest products deliver 44% better performance than previous generation Opterons of the same type, according to AMD. The chipmaker is hoping that customers with tight budgets in the economic slowdown will choose to swap the new chips with older models in the same hardware to take advantage of the higher performance while keeping the capital expenditure to a minimum.

"We believe IT managers are going to be a lot more conservative this year," Kerby said.

The latest models introduce new power-saving capabilities that will be part of all future 45-nm Opterons. The features include so-called CoolCore technology that shuts down portions of the processors' L3 cache that aren't being used. In addition, there's a PowerCap manager that allows IT pros to go into a server and select a lower power level for the chips, trading lower energy consumption for less performance. The new feature is accessible through the BIOS setup, Kerby said.

AMD launches its new products in a tough economic environment that has hammered all segments of the PC market. The slump contributed to a 33% drop in revenue for AMD in the fourth quarter of last year. AMD rival Intel also has been hit hard, reporting that revenue fell 23%.

Global PC sales fell in the fourth quarter for the first time in six years, according to IDC. Shipments dropped 0.4% from a year ago and 2.5% from the third quarter. The decline followed a half-dozen years of rising shipments, with the last five averaging increases of 15%.

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