Hardware Today: AMD Eats Into Intel's Server Chip Monopoly Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Apr 4, 2005

Intel vs. AMD

How does the Opteron compare to the Intel Xeon? It appears that, for now, the Opteron has the edge.

"Opteron is better in I/O intensive tasks and tasks that are sensitive to memory latency, and this advantage grows with the number of processors in the system," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64. "Xeon occasionally is better in tasks that benefit from very large caches."

But Intel continues to reign in other areas, namely the blade arena. AMD is making moves to close the gap, however. In the past two months, two major blade players have launched Opteron-based platforms. In February, Egenera announced new Opteron-based blades, and HP became the first tier-one OEM to offer Opteron blade servers (HP BL25 and HP BL35). Sun also announced its intention to offer Opteron blades in the coming months.

"Last month, we announced a new addition to our low-power AMD Opteron processor line-up that is ideally suited for the blade market, where lower power is needed to enable dense designs and meet end-user needs for lower power consumption," said Patla. "Each low-power AMD Opteron processor is designed to give the same performance as its full-power sibling with the same model number."

Dual Core

The biggest development on the horizon for AMD is the introduction of dual core processors by mid-2005. This is expected to significantly increase CPU performance — perhaps by a factor of 100 percent for some workloads — without the usual surge in power consumption.

CPU power consumption typically increases in direct relation to clock frequency. In practice, though, designers need extra power to speed up transistor performance to attain increased clock frequencies. Thus, a 20-percent boost in frequency might require as much as a 50-percent boost in power.

Dual-core designs reverse this, lowering the frequency of each core by 20 percent. The combined cores uses about the same amount of power as a single core at the higher frequency. This adds up to a performance boost of 1.7 over single-core designs using the same amount of power.

"AMD has a far more elegant approach to dual core than Intel's initial offerings in this area," said Brookwood. "It appears that Intel will win the dual-core desktop race, and AMD will win the dual-core server race."

The downside of dual core? Because dual-core chips run at lower clock frequencies than the fastest single core versions, clock-time performance will decline for single-threaded applications. Also, dual-core chips are double the size of their single-core equivalents, so they cost more to make. That said, rapid adoption of dual-core chips is expected

"Corporate IT systems currently optimized for symmetrical multiprocessing [SMP] multithreaded applications should see significant performance increases by using AMD multi-core processors, although performance will vary based on the application," said Patla. "Just as we brought 64-bit computing to the masses, we intend to the same with dual-core in 2005."

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