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AMD Releases Next-Gen Opterons

Advanced Micro Devices will release the next generation of quad-core Opteron processors, a line formerly code-named "Shanghai," by the end of the year, according to Steve Demski, an AMD product and marketing manager.

The will be the first line of AMD server and workstation processors created with the smaller 45-nanometer lithography process, which should provide improved performance and lower power requirements. The previous Opteron generation were created by a 65 nanometer process.

The five new Opteron models AMD will release by the end of the year will range in speed from 2.3 Ghz to 2.7 Ghz. All will run at 75 watts. Additional special editions for 55-watt low-power usage (the HE models) and 105-watt high-performance usage (SE) will be available in the first part of 2009.

Demski touted the smaller lithography process as being key for the energy savings. The lithography process involves etching out circuits on the dye using laser beams, in this case beams 45 nanometers wide, rather than 65. Printing circuit patterns on the chip wafer with a finer process means the circuitry itself will use less power, as it is smaller and more tightly laid out.

"With a smaller dye shrink, you actually have a lower capacitance on the dye itself, and that leads to lower idle power," Demski said. "We measure about 25 percent lower idle power at the CPU level, and at the system level that equates to about 8 percent lower power."

The chips also feature a new technology, called Smart Fetch, which reduces power consumption further, namely by turning off individual cores when they are not needed. The company predicts that this approach can cut power usage by up to 21 percent.
The new lithography process has also allowed AMD to up the clock speed on the Opterons, while not creating any additional heat. While the former generation, code-named "Barcelona," topped out at 2.3 Ghz, this generation ranges from 2.3 to 2.7 Ghz -- all running at the same 75-watt power envelope as Barcelona chips.

In addition, the chips will also come with a number of tweaks that should improve performance. The L3 cache has been increased from 2MB to 6MB. The chips will support the faster, next-generation DDR II 800 random access memory. A more efficient way of checking coherency among the various cores has been added.

AMD has also doubled the frequency of the HyperTransport bus, from 8GB per second, to 16GB per second. This should provide "significantly more bandwidth between CPUs," Demski said.

All these improvements should add up to better benchmark scores for the chips. And Demski provided a few. He boasted that a 2.7 Ghz Opteron 2384 could performed 32 percent faster than an Intel E5450 3 Ghz Xeon in executing integer-throughput tasks, as well as 14 percent faster in executing Java programs. The company has submitted these benchmarks to the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation for posting.

Cray, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems have all prepared server or workstation platforms that will incorporate this generation of processors, Demski said.

The 75 watt models, will range from $377 wholesale, for the 2.3 Ghz 2376, to $989 for the 2.7 Ghz 2384.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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