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AMD reaches for the cloud with new server chips

AMD launches new Opteron 3200 chips for servers used in Web hosting and cloud applications

Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday is expected to announce new Opteron 3200 series chips for low-end servers, which the company hopes will give it a competitive edge over Intel in the cloud server market.

The three Opteron 3200 chips are for use in single-socket servers for Web hosting and cloud applications, according to a company presentation. The chips have up to eight processor cores, clock speeds of up to 3GHz, and draw between 45 watts and 65 watts of power.

The new chips are based on the Bulldozer processor architecture, which is also in the Opteron 6200 16-core processors and FX-series gaming chips. The Opteron 3200 launch comes after AMD in late February announced it would pay US$334 million to acquire SeaMicro, which offers dense and power-efficient servers for cloud computing environments.

AMD's chips will likely compete against Intel's Xeon E3 series chips, which are used in SeaMicro's SM10000-XE server. Intel worked with SeaMicro on the server, but analysts have said that AMD will ultimately swap Intel's chips with its own chips.

AMD is pitching the Opteron 3200 as a "low-cost-per-core" product. The chips are priced between US$99 and $129, while Intel's E3 chips are priced between $189 and $885. MSI, Tyan, Fujitsu and Dell are expected to launch Web servers and dense systems based on the chips.

AMD's expanded product line provides an entry point to new markets, said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat.

But the Opteron 3200 could be a misfit in servers if competing on price versus performance-per-watt, McGregor said. There is a growing interest in deploying low-power servers in data centers to cut energy costs, but the Opteron 3200 chips are comparatively power-hungry for such installations.

A better match would be AMD's low-power Bobcat cores, which are used in low-power PCs, McGregor said. But the company instead had to push the bigger Opteron cores for ECC memory and data protection. AMD also has not built a dedicated low-power chip for servers.

AMD's microserver strategy is unclear, but the company has to move quickly to establish a presence in the market, McGregor said. The company faces challenges from Intel, which is ahead in processor and manufacturing technology, and ARM, whose smartphone and tablet processors are being tested in servers. Intel's low-power Atom chips are already being used in servers, and Hewlett-Packard is scheduled to make an ARM-based dense server available for testing in the second quarter.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com


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