Itâ€™s 5am on the 21st April in the UK and AMD has lifted the NDA on its dual core Opteron processor. Presumably thatâ€™s midnight somewhere significant, perhaps in Silicon Valley, but here itâ€™s very, very early in the morning.
AMD has opened a dedicated URL here where you can read all about the new processor, but thereâ€™s surprisingly little to tell you about the technical specification. The new Opteron still uses Socket 940, still has an integrated memory controller for ECC PC3200, still has three Hyper Transport links and uses a 90nm SOI (Silicon on Insulator) fabrication process, and runs both 32-bit and 64-bit software natively. The difference is that under the heat spreader there are two cores, rather than one, with 1MB of L2 cache for each core so the transistor count has doubled to 233 million.
The real surprise is that AMD has been able to scale the Opteron technology such that any Opteron motherboard that supports 90nm Opterons will only require a BIOS flash to run the new dual core processors. Thereâ€™s no need for a new motherboard, new chipset, new set of drivers or a reinstallation of Windows, and that has to be a major draw for the Enterprise market that currently runs single core Opterons.
AMD has stuck to its familiar model numbering system for the dual core processors, so we still have three seriesâ€™ of Opterons. 1xx is for single processor systems so they are effectively an Athlon 64 with ECC memory support, 2xx is for dual processor servers and workstations and 8xx is for servers that use either four or eight processors.
The new model codes for dual core Opterons follow on from the existing 152/252/852 which have a clock speed of 2.6GHz, but (as with Intel) the speeds for dual core have been reduced.
Today AMD has launched the 865 (1.8GHz), 870 (2GHz) and 875 (2.2GHz), so you can go out today and buy a server that uses these processors with prices as follows; in trays of 1,000 units the 865 is $1,514, the 870 $2,149 and the 875 costs a scary $2,649 and while you could spend your money with HP, IBM or Sun we got a great deal of help with this feature from Armari so weâ€™ll use some examples from Amariâ€™s range to show how these processor prices translate into end-user pricing. All of these servers use a 2U Tyan Transport TX46 chassis with 4GB of ECC PC3200, onboard ATI graphics and Maxtor 10,000rpm U320 SCSI hard drive.
As you can see, moving from the top-of-the-range single core 852 to the entry-level dual core 865 is seamless.