AMD releases next-gen Opterons

Advanced Micro Devices will release the next generation of quad-core Opteron processors, a line formerly codenamed Shanghai, by the end of the year, said Steve Demski, an AMD product and marketing manager.

It will be the first line of AMD server and workstation processors created with the smaller 45-nanometer lithography process, which should provide improved performance and lower power requirements. The previous Opteron generation was created with a 65-nanometer process.

The five new Opteron models will range in speed from 2.3 GHz to 2.7 GHz. All will run at 75 watts. Additional special editions for 55 watt low-power usage (the HE models) and 105 watt high-performance usage (SE) will be available in early 2009.

Demski said the smaller lithography process is the key to the energy savings. The process involves etching circuits on the die using laser beams ' in this case, beams 45 rather than 65 nanometers wide. Printing circuit patterns on the chip wafer with a finer process means the circuitry will use less power because it is smaller and more tightly designed.

"With a smaller die shrink, you actually have a lower capacitance on the die itself, and that leads to lower idle power," Demski said. "We measure about 25 percent lower idle power at the CPU level, and at the system level, that equates to about 8 percent lower power."

The chips also feature a new technology, called Smart Fetch, that reduces power consumption further ' namely, by turning off individual cores when they are not needed. The company predicts that the approach can cut power use by as much as 21 percent.

The new lithography process has also allowed AMD to increase the clock speed on the Opterons without creating any additional heat. Although the former generation, codenamed Barcelona, topped out at 2.3 GHz, the new generation ranges from 2.3 to 2.7 GHz ' all running at the same 75 watt power envelope as Barcelona chips.

The company has tweaked the new chips in other ways to improve performance. It increased the L3 cache from 2M to 6M; added support for the faster, next-generation DDR II 800 RAM; and incorporated a more efficient way of checking coherency among the various cores.

AMD has also doubled the frequency of the HyperTransport bus ' from 8 gigabytes/sec to 16 gigabytes/sec. That should provide "significantly more bandwidth between CPUs," Demski said.

Demski said all those improvements have already added up to better benchmark scores for the chips. He said a 2.7 GHz Opteron 2384 performed 32 percent faster than a 3 GHz Intel E5450 Xeon chip in executing integer-throughput tasks and 14 percent faster in executing Java programs. The company has submitted those benchmarks to the Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. for posting.

Cray, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems have all prepared server or workstation platforms that will incorporate AMD's new generation of processors, Demski said.

The 75 watt models will range in price from $377 wholesale for the 2.3 GHz 2376 to $989 for the 2.7 GHz 2384.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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