AMD Aims to Be the Power Behind the Cloud

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 25, 2010


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Virtually Speaking: AMD's newest processor is designed to help the beleaguered chip vendor shoot for the cloud. Will its upward compatibility and power management features help on its journey?

A proper virtualization deployment involves the entire stack. Although software typically receives the lion's share of attention, virtualization begins with the processor. For some time now, processor vendors have been designing their hardware with virtualization in mind, and they haven't been shy about making that a key selling point.

AMD's latest Opteron processor, the 4100 family (formerly known by the codename "Lisbon") is no exception to this. Announced on Wednesday, AMD is positioning the processor series just below its eight- and 16-core "Magny-Cours" line for high-end users. It was designed with cloud computing and hyperscale data centers in mind. The target customer -- midsize enterprises whose concerns center around with power efficiency and performance per watt.

"There are approximately 2 million AMD processors in the cloud to date," Brent Kerby. senior product marketing manager, AMD Opteron processor, told ServerWatch.

With the new functionality in the 4100 series, AMD anticipates growing this base. Its HyperTransport 3.0 Technology (HT3) Links, for example, have been given a speedbump over the previous generation's with two 16x links for transferring data at up to 6.4GT/s per link sped up. The movement is transparent to the software, Kerby said, and AMD is "using the same speed links across product family," which differentiates it from those of other chip vendors, he added.

Internetnews reports other enhancements and new features in the the Opteron 4100 include, "an updated core architecture which AMD calls the Direct Connect Architecture 2.0. DCA 2.0 consists of the complete AMD Virtualization (AMD-V) technology with IOMMU and extended migration capabilities, AMD-P power management."

Power management is a key selling point for the chip, and many of the features are highly complimentary to virtualization. C1E Power State, for example, reduce servers to lower utilization levels where appropriate. In addition, its Advanced Platform Management Link can adjust power and cooling on demand, and AMD Cool Speed technology, can drop power while system is down.

AMD has taken a beating from Intel over the past year. It has also seen some of its OEM channels dry up. With the 4100's low price point ($99 per processor) and focus of future computing needs (Kerby noted that it will be upgrade compatible with "Bulldozer" when it is released in the second half of 2011) AMD is shooting for a big chunk of the cloud.

Amy Newman is the senior managing editor of ServerWatch and Enterprise IT Planet. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in October 2009.

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