AMD Gets an EE for Energy Efficiency
The chip maker responds to Intel’s Nehalem offering with a new Opteron processor.
By Steve Wexler
The first shot in the latest round of server one-upmanship was fired by Intel at the end of March when it launched its Nehalem chips, led by the Xeon 5500 series. Analyst Tom Foremski wrote “Nehalem performance is potentially so great, and the lifetime ownership costs are so low, that the Intel architecture can finally, and decidedly, take on the RISC market with a vastly superior product.”
Arch-rival AMD responded a week later with an up to 30 percent discount to system builders and customers upgrading AMD Opteron processors. “AMD’s discount announcement is at least partially in response to the Intel Nehalem introduction,” says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund IT. “But it also highlights the flexibility of Opteron systems, which are designed for upgrading in place–that is, to receive the performance boost offered by a new processor without replacing the rest of the server. That offers terrific value for end users, and helps drive additional business for those who perform the upgrades.”
But the discount was only the immediate response from AMD. Wednesday the company is launching the Opteron EE processor, a 45-nanometer quad-core chip that offers features similar to the other Opteron chips but comes in a 40-watt thermal envelope. It is targeted at dense environments like cloud computing and data centers, and offers “the lowest quad-core x86 server power band.”
Forget about speeds, feeds and maximum achievable performance, said AMD’s Burke Banda, senior product marketing manager for server and workstation. Today customers are concerned about efficient performance enabled through a low-power infrastructure.
“AMD was first to go out with low-power server products. Today, we’re taking that iteration even lower,” he said. 40W is unheard of in the server world. It’s all about a balance between performance and power, and while Intel went higher in the power band with Nehalem, AMD has gone lower.
The company says the new CPU adds significant power efficiency improvements over the Quad-Core AMD Opteron HE processor within the same platform with a 13 percent reduction in platform-level power consumption and up to a 14 percent reduction in processor power at idle. At the same performance level, the new EE processor delivers up to 62 percent improved performance-per-watt over the previous generation.
“Customers are pretty excited about this,” said Banda. “They really like where we’re heading with this.
The Opteron EE takes over from the 55-watt Opteron HE as the lowest-power AMD server chip. AMD also offers Opterons at 75 and 105 watts. The EE comes with clock speeds of 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz and includes such key features as the company’s Direct Connect integrated memory controller technology, AMD-V features for virtualization, and the ability to scale while keeping power consumption and thermal output low.
It also includes the features offered in what the chip maker is calling its AMD-P suite, a marketing strategy of putting its key power features under a single umbrella. These include Smart Fetch, which enables idle processing cores to be put to sleep to conserve energy; CoolCore, which reduces the power to unused parts of the processor; and PowerCap, which sets limits on a processor’s speed and voltage.
AMD also announced new processors in the HE, standard, and SE power bands, as well as support for HyperTransport 3 technology and a new fine-tuning feature called AMD Core Select, which enables IT managers to turn off one or more cores, helping them to fine tune their hardware for their specific operating conditions and workloads.
Banda said the products are shipping now and can be dropped into existing systems for an even quicker ramp-up. For more information, visit www.amd.com.
This story was originally published in eChannelLine (www.eChannelLine.com).