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Advanced Micro Devices said Friday that it had started shipments of its highly-anticipated twelve-core AMD Opteron microprocessors code-named Magny-Cours. The company indicated that the shipments are limited and are intended to prepare for the launch of servers powered by the new chips due later this quarter.

“We have been aggressively sampling production-level parts to customers for nearly 30 days now and have actually shipped a limited number of production parts to allow customers to prepare for launch – on track for later this quarter,” said Phil Hughes, a spokesman for AMD.

AMD Opteron microprocessors transformed Advanced Micro Devices from a producer of inexpensive desktop chips into a world-class supplier of microprocessors for servers back in 2003. At that time the code-named SledgeHammer processor with one processing core and up to 2.40GHz clock-speed brought a number of breakthrough innovations that redefined the mainstream server industry, including integrated memory controller, chip-to-chip interconnect for multi-processor systems, x86-64 capability and a number of other improvements. Seven years later the Magny-Cours processor is supposed to once again transform the server market with twelve x86 processing engines, quad-channel memory controller as well as new high-speed chip-to-chip interconnection. This time, however, AMD Opteron will have to fight against Intel Corp.’s octa-core Xeon processor that not only has the benefits of the Nehalem micro-architecture, but also boasts with a number of reliability, availability, serviceability (RAS) advantages presently only found in mission-critical servers, such as those based on Intel Itanium, IBM Power or Sun UltraSPARC microprocessors.

Central processing units for servers are sold at a great price-premium, which is why it is crucially important for both Sunnyvale, California-based AMD as well as  Santa Clara, California-based Intel to have the best microprocessors for server markets as such chips bring very high profit.

According to preliminary information from unofficial sources, the mainstream line of twelve-core AMD Opteron 6000-series processors will consist of three chips operating at 1.90GHz, 2.10GHz and 2.20GHz. Besides, AMD will also release highly efficient (HE) and special edition (SE) AMD Opteron 6000 microprocessors with twelve processing engines functioning at 1.70GHz and 2.30GHz, respectively. In addition, AMD plans to launch three standard-voltage eight-core chips at 2.0GHz, 2.30GHz and 2.40GHz frequencies along with two HE eight-core processors at 1.80GHz and 2.0GHz clock-speeds. In order to ensure maximum stability, all AMD’s twelve-core processors will come with reduced clock-speed of integrated memory controller and L3 cache (1.80GHz) compared to six-core and quad-core products.

Even though clock-speeds of AMD Opteron 6000-series processors are not high, AMD will still increase thermal design power of Maranello server platform. Based on preliminary information, AMD G34 (1944-pin) CPUs will have 85W, 115W or 140W TDP, which is somewhat higher compared to TDPs supported by existing multi-processor platforms.

The company hopes that its next-generation servers will still offer great performance-per-watt despite of higher power consumption of twelve-core and eight-core chips thanks to increased amount of cores and other innovations of the next-gen platforms. In particular, the new processors will have HyperTransport bus speed increased to 6.4GT/s, which will increase performance scalability, as well as Cool Speed and C1E technologies to reduce power consumption. In addition, it can be expected that Globalfoundries 45nm silicon-on-insulator process technology will improve a bit by the end of Q1 2010.

AMD Opteron “Magny-Cours” processor will be the first chip for the AMD G34 “Maranello” platform designed for Opteron processors 6000-series with up to 16 cores, quad-channel memory interface, 2 or 4 sockets, up to 12 memory modules per socket and some server and enterprise-specific functionality. Magny-Cours microprocessors feature two six-core or quad-core dies on one piece of substrate.

Tags: AMD, Opteron, Magny-Cours, 45nm, Maranello

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