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AMD’s Latest Opteron — Quad-Core and Versatile

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AMD (Monday announced the Quad-Core Opteron 1000 Series, a.k.a. Budapest. This processor is meant for single-socket servers or high-performance desktop workstations and fills out the low end of the Quad-Core Opteron line.

Budapest is a Quad-Core Opteron for a single processor server, ideal for small databases. So why is Cray building supercomputers with it?

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Somewhat overlooked, but none the less important to AMD’s product strategy, the 1000 Series goes into smaller servers, such as light load file and print servers or e-mail/Web servers.

Other than its placement, it’s largely identical to the Quad-Core Opteron line for two or more sockets, known as “Barcelona.”

It uses the AM2 socket, the same as the desktop Phenom Athlon Series, rather than the Opteron’s Socket F. Steve Demsky, Opteron product manager for AMD, notes you are better off with a Quad-Core Phenom if you want pure performance.

The Budapest processor is designed for reliability and lifespan. It’s built with an expected life span of seven years vs. Phenom’s three-year life expectancy (before the owner upgrades, not before it self-destructs).

“From a performance standpoint, you get slightly better performance from a quad core Phenom,” Demsky told “We have decided to focus on the mainstream power band ‘with Budapest’, which is what mainstream users want.

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They want performance, but before performance they want reliability, availability and manageability. So we’re sacrificing performance a bit to make these other things a bit more robust.”

Demsky claims AMD has 27 percent of the single-socket North American server market, thanks to Dell and HP selling low-end servers. All existing single-socket Opteron servers can upgrade to the new quad-core design, as it maintains backward compatibility. All that’s needed is a BIOS upgrade.

Three products running at 75 watts make up the1000 line: the Quad-Core Opteron 1356, a 2.3GHz processor that will sell for $377 in lots of 1,000; the Quad-Core Opteron 1354, a 2.2GHz selling for $255 in lots of 1,000 and the Quad-Core Opteron 1352, a 2.1GHz part at $209.

The Opteron 1000 Series is used primarily in small servers in the $1,000 price range, but Cray also uses it to build supercomputers. Its XT4 supercomputers use up to 10,000 Opterons, and it’s always been the 1000 Series, first the dual-core, and now the quad-core designs.

Why? According to Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray, it’s actually better suited for certain supercomputing applications. Cray also has supercomputers with the 8000 Series, the Barcelonas, but for some uses, Budapest is better.

Ungaro said the SMP in a Barcelona processor actually consumes a little overhead, whereas the Budapest, which is not meant to communicate with other processors, can focus on just computation.

Budapest is slightly slower than Barcelona, but Ungaro said that’s not the issue. “It has a lot more to do with getting the whole balance, especially in the supercomputer, where we’re trying to get 10,000 processors working together,” he explained.

Ungaro also praised Budapest’s upgradability, noting that a Cray supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Lab has been upgraded repeatedly, from 25 teraflops of performance when it was first installed to 260 teraflops now.

“We’ve been able to really upgrade that system and provide customers with a great upgrade path to their machine,” Ungaro said. “In a world of throwaway servers, this has been a big advantage for our customers.”

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