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February 23, 2010

AMD Confirms 12-Core Opteron Production

Michael Feldman

The appearance of four G34 Magny-Cours Opterons on eBay last week pre-empted AMD’s coming out party for its new 8- and 12-core wonder chips in March. In a blog post penned by John Fruehe, AMD’s director of product marketing for the server/workstation group, he admitted that Magny-Cours chips (aka Opteron 6100 Series processors) are already rolling out of the fabs. Writes Fruehe:

Production began last month and our OEM partners have been receiving production parts this month. We have had a few select end customer opportunities that have been fulfilled, but it is nothing we can talk about publicly.

Although you just did.

Notwithstanding the early tease on eBay, it’s no secret that AMD was planning to begin volume shipments of the new Opterons at the end of the quarter. As such, they will represent the first 12-core x86 processors on the planet. And if they beat Intel’s 8-core Nehalem EX to the market, Magny-Cours will take the octa-core lead as well. The launch date for Nehalem EX has only been specified as “sometime in the first half of the year.”

Intel’s 6-core Westmere EP server chips are also expected to roll out at the end of the first quarter, joining Magny-Cours and Nehalem EX in a multicore feast for x86 server lovers everywhere. Magny-Cours is aimed at high-end 2P and 4P servers, while Westmere EP is designed for 2P systems, and Nehalem EX will go to servers needing four or more sockets. Expect to see an array of HPC machines with all these processor parts in 2010.

Although Intel-built x86 processors have gained market share in the overall server space over the past two years, AMD thinks it’s due for a comeback. The company touts Opteron’s energy efficiency, balanced CPU-memory design, and more stable (that is, conservative) upgrade path as advantages. In particular, AMD likes to point out the four memory channels on the upcoming Magny-Cours will be one way the new chips will outperform its rival’s processors, especially in memory-bound apps.

Speaking of x86 market share, the gang over at Seeking Alpha, a Web site that offers stock market analysis, appears to be bullish on AMD’s chances in the server market. In an article this week, they cite a Trefis analysis that forecasts AMD will regain market share in the server arena at Intel’s expense:

Although we estimate that Intel has recouped some of the lost server processor market share since 2008, we forecast that Intel will continue to lose share over the long-run to AMD. Some of the high-performance server processors offered by AMD consume less power and have a lower cost of ownership compared to similar chips from Intel making AMD chips attractive to many server processor customers.

The forecast estimates Intel will shed its server market share from the current 72.9 percent down to 66.9 percent in 2016. While that decline may seem relatively modest, considering that the server market is expected to hit 30 million processors in 2016 (according to the Trefis forecast), the six-point drop represents billions in revenue. For a company the size of Intel, that’s pocket change (well, not quite), but for AMD it could make or break its year.