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The world’s first small form-factor barebone for two AMD Opteron processors is set to start its sales in Tokyo, Japan, in a few days, after numerous delays. The move proves possibility to make dual-chip configurations in cube-like small cases with space constraints, but the delay outlines possible issues with such projects.

ZMAXdp – World’s First 2-Way Barebone

IWILL’s ZMAXdp powered by two AMD Opteron 200-series microprocessors will be based on NVIDIA nForce3 Professional core-logic supporting 800MHz HyperTransport bus, Serial ATA-150 with RAID support, Gigabit Ethernet as well as NVIDIA’s very own Firewall technology. The barebone will offer 1 AGP 8x and 1 PCI slot for additional flexibility as well as 2 bays for 3.5” HDDs in addition to 1 5.25” bay. The SFF system was initially expected to come with 300W power-supply unit.

One of the drawbacks of the ZMAXdp is cut-down memory bandwidth: each AMD Opteron chip can only operate in single-channel memory mode. All AMD Opteron processors feature dual-channel memory controllers with peak theoretical memory bandwidth of 5.30GB/s or 6.40GB/s depending on the memory type used. Single-channel mode would only give each AMD Opteron chip 2.70GB or 3.20GB of data per second depending on the memory speed. Reduced memory bandwidth and, as a consequence, lowered performance of AMD Opteron processors are likely to put performance of IWILL ZMAXdp on a level below competing full form-factor systems.

IWILL is the first company to make a 2P small form-factor workstation. The firm positions its forthcoming barebone for CAD/CAM, video/graphics designers who are interested in simultaneous 32-/64-bit computing. While the market for such systems is clearly not as large as the market for small PCs, IWILL is likely to enjoy high gross-margins of such 2-way systems.

Volume production of the ZMAXdp was planned to start in September, 2004, while the pricing of the barebone was suggested to be at $499. According to a report from Akiba PC Hotline web-site, the ZMAXdp will emerge in Tokyo, Japan, in very late December, 2004, for the price of about $715.

Cube-Like Systems Gain Popularity, But Bring New Challenges

Cube-like barebones and personal computers have been gaining popularity for the last year or two thanks to initiative of Shuttle computer, who was the first to bring out its XPCs into the market. Other makers of computer components quickly realized the advantages of idea of compact and quiet PCs and were rapid to follow Shuttle with their small form-factor offerings that resembled the original XPCs.

Now that the market of desktops recognizes the SFF pretty well, this is time to offer something small, stylish, quiet, but very powerful for the market of workstations. However, for IWILL this seemed to be a substantial challenge.

AMD’s contemporary microprocessors produced using 130nm process technology dissipate up to 89W, whereas its 90nm products dissipate up to 67W. Special versions of AMD Opteron and AMD Athlon 64 chips have thermal design power of 35W or 55W, but those are not really mainstream products. Future dual-core AMD Opteron chips will dissipate around 105W. Modern Intel Xeon processors have 103W thermal design power.

While cooling-down one or two such microprocessors in typical desktop or server case is not a challenge, putting a couple of AMD Opteron chips into space-constrained small form-factor PC was probably a big technology trick for IWILL. It is currently a question, whether the company tries to make a small form-factor system powered by two Intel Xeon processors.


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