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AMD has high hopes for new server chipset

New server platform planned for 2009

AMD plans to launch a new server platform based on an improved chipset in the first half of 2009.

The new chipset will be geared toward servers, with multiple sockets to plug in additional server chips. The chipset could improve the way chips in multiple sockets and components like graphics cards communicate with each other. The improved performance comes through new virtualisation capabilities and support for HyperTransport 3.0 bus technology, according to the company.

AMD's upcoming Shanghai server chips - which will be delivered in the fourth quarter this year - will go into this chipset, said Phil Hughes, a company spokesman. Shanghai chips will also go into Nvidia and Broadcom chipset offerings.

This could be a significant announcement for AMD as the company hasn't had a server platform that included a chipset since the very start of Opteron around 2003, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Most of the AMD servers today contain either Nvidia or Broadcom chipsets, he said.

The new server chipset won't necessarily boost AMD's processor business, but server vendors do not accept desktop chipsets, he said. AMD has a strong presence in the desktop chipset business, and the server chipset could open a new market for the company, McCarron said.

Though the input-output performance on the chipset will improve with the new features, it is not designed to boost processor performance, McCarron said. That will solely depend on how Shanghai chips perform.

Shanghai chips will be the first manufactured by AMD using the 45-nanometre (nm) manufacturing process. Desktop offerings manufactured using the 45-nm process technology will closely follow, said Randy Allen, senior vice president of computing solutions at AMD, during a conference call on Friday.

AMD is in talks with server vendors to finalise its Shanghai-based server shipment schedules. Based on how those discussions go, AMD hopes the servers will be in the market by the end of the year, Allen said.

AMD is roughly a year behind Intel in shipping chips based on the 45-nm technology, but efforts are underway to close the gap, Allen said.
The server chipset announcement may be an attempt by AMD to pre-empt Intel's server-based announcements at its Intel Developer Forum show next week in San Francisco. Last year, AMD announced the Phenom triple-core chip prior to the start of IDF.

AMD executives spent a lot of time on the conference call berating Intel for photocopying its past innovations, including quad-core processors and chip technology.

"It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we certainly see that in play here. But at another level it is somewhat annoying when you see the over-the-top rhetoric they utilise, and at some level you get mad," Allen said.

AMD has historically announced products prior to IDF to show that they are still alive and should not be forgotten, Mercury Research's McCarron said.


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