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AMD Takes Lead in HyperScale Chips

On Wednesday AMD disclosed a couple of new Opteron chips developed under the codename Kyoto

Once upon a time, children - though this might sound like a fable, it's a true story - little AMD scared the bejesus out of mighty Intel and forced it to change all it's carefully laid 64-bit server chip plans.

Until it did AMD ruled the server roost and made a little money.

Then AMD frittered away its lead with manufacturing glitches.

That was a long ago in Internet time, beyond the ken of some younger readers, but now AMD is going to try repeating the experience by introducing cloud- and Big Data-oriented x86 server chips that beat out Intel's current x86 Atom parts.

Since the first Opteron and the advent of the cloud, things have changed.

Newfangled companies like Google, Amazon, Baidu and Facebook that buy massive numbers of servers aren't buying machines with faster, more powerful Intel chips inside. Instead they want dense, low-cost boxes that save on power and handle new workloads that cater to simple things like storing and calling up web pages and photos taken on smartphones rather than complex databases.

That's why AMD bought a start-up called SeaMicro that developed some so-called microservers based on Atom and put its CEO Andrew Feldman in charge of its server effort.

On Wednesday AMD disclosed a couple of new Opteron chips developed under the codename Kyoto that are now officially called the Opteron X-Series designed for scale-out server architectures: one, dubbed the X1150, only draws 9W, the other, called the X2150, needs only 11W. Respectively they cost $64 and $99 in quantities of a thousand.

They are supposed to be the highest-density highest-performance small-core x86 server processors ever built, with twice the performance and more power efficiency than any Intel Atom.

They both have four Jaguar cores or double the density of Intel and are supposed to be good for hosting, virtualized desktops, web tier servers, SaaS, memcached, Hadoop, xSQL, object and block storage, cloud video and entertainment services, transcoding and messaging.

The X2150 is the first server APU system-on-a-chip (SoC) integrating CPU and GPU engines with a high-speed bus on a single die. That means it can handle multimedia-oriented server workloads and visualization which is what people with smartphones and tablets are demanding.

The X1150 is a CPU-only version optimized for general scale-out workloads.

AMD says the gismos beat out Intel in benchmarks on single-thread and throughput performance with superior power-efficiency, twice the cores and 2x more L2 cache with a more advanced pipeline architecture, higher integration and support for up to 32 gigs of DRAM - 4x more than the Atom processor.

Feldman says, "The data center is at an inflection point and requires a high number of cores in a dense form factor with integrated graphics, massive amounts of DRAM and unprecedented power efficiency to keep up with the pace of innovation of Internet services."

AMD expects to capture next-generation scale-out web and cloud applications ranging from Big Data analytics to image processing, multimedia content delivery and hosting. The space-conscious widgetry will be used by HP in its hyperscale-supporting Moonshot project.

How long AMD can keep the lead is a question since Intel is working on new competitive Atoms.

The AMD Opteron X-Series versus Intel Atom S1260:

 

AMD OpteronTM X-Series

Intel Atom S1260

AMD Advantage

x86 CPU Cores

4

2

2X

GPU Cores

128 AMD RadeonTM HD 8000 Cores

None

AMD Only

Max. DRAM Per Socket

32 GB*

8 GB

4X

Max. DRAM Speed

DDR3-1600

DDR3-1333

1.2X

L2 Cache

2 MB

1 MB

2X

Throughput Performance

28.9 @ 2 GHz (CPU)
(est.)2

13.0 @ 2 GHz

2.2X

Single Thread Performance

10.0 @ 2 GHz (CPU)
(est.)2

5.2 @ 2 GHz

1.9X

Integrated SATA Ports

Yes

No

AMD Only

And then there's the X1150:

Model

CPU Cores

CPU Configurable Frequency

GPU Cores

GPU Configurable Frequency

TDP Range

1KU Pricing

X1150

4

Up to 2.0GHz

N/A

N/A

9 - 17W

$64

X2150

4

Up to 1.9GHz

128

266 to 600MHz

11 - 22W

$99

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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