AMD Lisbon Opteron 4100 CPUs and FireStream GPUs Launch for Servers
AMD gets more aggressive in the server market
Over the past 6 months or so we have seen AMD's server strategy for the next few years come to fruition starting with the release of the Opteron 6000 series of processors that featured both 8-core and 12-core units configured for the traditional high end server space. Usually consisting of two and four socket machines, the Opteron 6000 parts were met with quite a bit of criticism being the first to a 12-core offering though they were usurped by much more expensive Intel Xeon processors not long after.
After meeting with AMD in their Austin offices early in the spring it became apparent to me that while AMD was taking that market very seriously and still has ambitions to dominate in that field, the real target was becoming apparent: the mid-range 1-2P servers that dominate the landscape in volume. AMD claims that this market consists of buyers looking to expand on the cloud infrastructure that is dominating the news headlines today as well as the small-and-medium businesses (SMB) that are once again growing across the world.
To that end, AMD has tailored the new Opteron 4100 series to fit the niche nicely.
The Opteron 4100 series processors - Lisbon
The Lisbon core is a die built from the ground up to be the most power efficient and power-per-core efficient CPU available. Cloud server infrastructures, and many of the SMB customers that AMD is looking at selling to, have diverse server needs that might differ from what you imagine servers to do.
AMD puts it like this: cloud servers tend to operate at 10-20% of their top performance capacity at any given time and only need to be able to "spike" CPU performance at specific instances. To design a CPU that could do both (have fantastic power efficiency and the best performance available) would mean you would have to sacrifice on both ends of the scale. Instead, AMD is clearly targeting power efficiency with "good enough" top level performance in order to address the largest possible server segments available, all without removing scalability or key features.
With the targeting of the cloud computing infrastructure and the dramatic lowering of prices on the Opteron 4100 series, AMD is making a bold move against the largest segment of the server market. By under cutting Intel so drastically on pricing AMD is obviously will to sacrifice short term profits for long term market share and mind share of customers. Obviously the processor teams at AMD are getting some advice from the graphics division acquired during the ATI merger and I think this is the right move to make based on the technology available today.
AMD definitely needs the Opteron 4100-series to be a success in a big
way - the pricing scheme they have worked up demands high volume. We
have not yet seen design wins from AMD or its partners on this front and
that is somewhat disheartening. AMD claims that any potential "cloud"
customers they have with custom built designs have to remain a secret so
we may never know who is or isn't interested in AMD's new line of
Opteron parts. I assume that we will eventually get basic information
as quarterly earnings calls commence but for now we wait.