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NVIDIA Corp. on Monday unveiled its special series of chipsets intended for AMD Opteron servers and workstations, adding valuable capabilities to professional computers based on 64-bit microprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices.

NVIDIA Aims AMD64 Servers, Workstations

“This new technology greatly positions NVIDIA to become a preeminent supplier of server and workstation platforms. We are pleased to be working with a number of leading suppliers for their upcoming Opteron processor-based platforms,” said Drew Henry, general manager of platform business at NVIDIA.

While NVIDIA is mostly known for its graphics processors and chipsets for consumer personal computers, the company is likely to gain popularity in the markets of workstations and servers in future, after debuting its first workstation chipset in mid-2003.

NVIDIA is constantly adding additional features and capabilities into its core-logic sets, while AMD – the main provider of chipsets for AMD Opteron-based servers and workstations – has not updated its AMD8000-series chips for more than a year. As the demand towards advanced caps like Serial ATA and PCI Express rises later in 2005, NVIDIA nForce-series chipsets are likely to become preferable choice for makers of platforms for workstations and servers.

NVIDIA nForce Professional – New Series of MCPs

NVIDIA’s nForce Professional is a new series of media and communication processors from NVIDIA Corp. that currently consists of nForce Professional 2200 and 2050 chips.

NVIDIA nForce Professional 2200 media and communication processor features 1000MHz 16x16 HyperTransport link; flexible PCI Express controller with 20 lanes; 4 Serial ATA-300 ports, 4 Parallel ATA-133 ports with NVIDIA MediaShield RAID technology; Gigabit Ethernet with NVIDIA TCP/IP Offload Engine, 10 USB 2.0 ports and other capabilities.

NVIDIA nForce Professional 2050 media and communication processor is a cut-down MCP with reduced functionality that is supposed to work with the 2200 chip as an I/O controller. It features HyperTransport link; flexible PCI Express controller with 20 lanes; 4 Serial ATA-300 ports with NVIDIA MediaShield RAID technology; Gigabit Ethernet with NVIDIA TCP/IP Offload Engine.

NVIDIA nForce Professional-series resembles NVIDIA nForce4-series core-logic products for desktops on the feature-set and maybe even architectural levels.

NVIDIA says its flexible PCI Express implementation features such server-specific requirements as advanced error reporting (AER), hot-plug, message signal interrupts (MSI) and other caps. A number of capabilities NVIDIA Corp. provides are not currently supported by servers and workstations based on AMD Opteron processors.

Software for the nForce Professional supports both Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems.

NVIDIA SLI Multi-GPU Tech at Workstation Service

NVIDIA nForce Professional-based applications will be able to support NVIDIA’s Multi-GPU technology called Scalable Link Interface (SLI) allowing system builders to plug in a couple of specially-designed NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards to support up to 8 displays on a single workstation, or get an ultimate horsepower of two NVIDIA’s premium Quadro-series graphics processing units.

AMD and Server Makers Praise nForce4 Professional

“The NVIDIA nForce Professional platform offers an unmatched feature set for server customers in a wide variety of business computing environments,” said Phil Hester, CEO of Newisys.

“NVIDIA has long demonstrated its success in platform design, and the new feature-rich NVIDIA nForce Professional MCPs continue that tradition. The combination of our AMD Opteron processors with Direct Connect Architecture and NVIDIA nForce Professional provides the performance, scalability, and features to handle today's most demanding professional graphic accelerators as well as server I/O cards in both 32-bit and 64-bit computing environments,” said Marty Seyer, corporate vice president and general manager, Microprocessor Business Unit, AMD’s Computation Products Group.

“We are pleased that NVIDIA is launching the first PCI Express product for AMD Opteron platforms. IBM and NVIDIA have a long relationship in workstation graphics and we expect that the NVIDIA nForce Professional products will have the same high quality and reliability as the NVIDIA Quadro products,” said Bob Lenard, Worldwide Director of IBM IntelliStation Workstations and Linux clusters.

“Sun and NVIDIA have a strong relationship, and we’ve partnered to deliver leading graphics solutions on the AMD Opteron processor-based Sun Java Workstations. NVIDIA products have a solid history of performance and reliability, and we expect that the new NVIDIA nForce Professional MCPs will carry on this tradition,” said Rajesh Shakkarwar, senior director of workstation marketing at Sun Microsystems.

Time Required to Polish Server, Workstation Functions

Despite of relatively warm welcome, NVIDIA still needs some time to polish off its hardware and software to match servers and workstations guidelines for quality and reliability, as still some of NVIDIA’s nForce4 PCI Express applications still need some time to work perfectly, X-bit labs’ test results suggest. With that said, it cannot be immediately expected that NVIDIA wins multiple volume designs with large OEMs on the server and workstation markets.

Shipping Now

“Both IWILL and TYAN are shipping nForce Professional-based mainboards now. Other partners and system builders, along with OEMs, will be making their own announcements over the next few weeks and months,” an NVIDIA Corp.’s spokesman said.

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