AMD Finishes Off Quad Cores with Budapest Opterons
Published: June 11, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Advanced Micro Devices last week finally finished getting its quad-core Rev F lineup of processors into the field with the delivery of the "Budapest" Opteron 1300 series of chips for single-socket workstations and servers. The Budapest chips are going to make some server makers, who have built machines based on the 940-pin AM2 socket, very happy and the single-socket boxes are one place where AMD can point to market share gains for its Opteron lineup, despite Intel's two-year onslaught.
The Budapest Opterons are functionally equivalent to the quad-core "Barcelona" 2300 and 8300 series of processors for two-socket and four-socket and larger servers, except they have fewer HyperTransport links and the electronics for the NUMA-style shared memory processor clustering removed. Each Budapest chip has 512 KB of L2 cache per core and 2 MB of shared L3 cache per chip, just like the Barcelonas. There are three different Budapest chips. The Opteron 1352 runs at 2.1 GHz and costs $209 each in 1,000-unit quantities; the Opteron 1354 runs at 2.2 GHz and costs $255 each; and the Opteron 1356 runs at 2.3 GHz and costs $377 each. That extra 200 MHz is probably not worth the extra $168 for most customers; that works out to an 80.4 percent increase in price for an extra 9.5 percent of performance. Customers are seeing performance boosts in the range of 50 percent compared to dual-core Rev F Opterons at the same clock speed, which is about what you'd expect moving from dual-core to quad-core chips.
The Budapest chips have the same PowerNow and CoolCore technologies that other Rev F Opterons have to conserve energy. PowerNow does frequency scaling for cores as workloads change, while CoolCore allows the Opteron processor to automatically turn off (rather than slow down) unused portions of the chip to save juice and cut down on heat. The Opteron chips also have features that allow core clocks to run at different speeds on the same chip, depending on workload needs, and dynamic power management to cut down on the electricity used by the integrated memory controllers, which have been split with the Budapest and Barcelona designs to allow different memory banks to be managed separately to conserve energy.
The Budapest chips, however, do not come in low-voltage, energy-saving Highly Efficient, or HE, variants, and are only in the standard 75-watt thermal envelope parts for single-socket Opterons. According to Steve Demski, Opteron product manager, AMD has not received sufficient interest in low-energy parts to warrant sifting through the bins to find chips that can run at the normal clock speeds at a lower voltage. AMD also used to have a super-low-power Opteron variant called Extremely Efficient, or EE, and these parts have been pushed into an embedded products division where end user customers can't buy them. There are not EE variants of the Budapest or Barcelona parts, and considering the focus on energy efficiency in the data center these days--and the increasing focus on HE parts for the Barcelona chips--this seems like an odd choice for AMD to make. But, AMD is under financial pressure and has not been able to generate a large premium price for the HE and EE parts--at least not as large as it thought it would four years ago. Some work is not worth the money, apparently. Then again, Intel is getting its Xeon parts down into the 50 watt range, and sometimes you do what you have to do to compete and win deals.
One server maker that has been caught flat-footed by the delay in the delivery of the quad-core Opterons is supercomputer maker Cray, whose "Red Storm" and kicker parallel supercomputers are based on the single-socket implementations of Opterons. A year ago, Cray blamed its expected revenue shortfall in 2007 on delays in getting quad-core Budapest chips into the field for its XT4 supercomputers and the rollout of its XT5 designs, and a little more than a month ago--surprise, surprise--after AMD announced a less-than-impressive technical roadmap for the future Opteron processors, Cray announced a new partnership with Intel for future supers. Cray will still sell and support Opteron-based supers, of course, since the Intel-Cray partnership will not bear fruit for years. But the deal still hurts AMD as much as the original Opteron win for the Red Storm super back in 2002 helped. In any event, AMD is happy to point out that the XT4 supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been upgraded to the Budapest parts and is delivering 260 teraflops of peak performance. (The Budapest and Barcelona chips can do a peak of four floating point operations per clock cycle, which means a single chip has an aggregate of 9.2 gigaflops per core and 36.8 gigaflops running at 2.3 GHz.)
According to Demski, Dell is immediately putting the Budapest chips into its PowerEdge 105 tower server and Hewlett-Packard is putting the chip into the ML115 G5 tower server and its XW455 workstation. IBM has not announced plans for the Budapest 1300 series of chips yet, and Sun Microsystems, which sells two-socket and larger "Galaxy" servers using Rev E and Rev F Opterons, has not yet launched a box using an AM2 socket. But if it wants to be a volume player, it should, and it should also seriously consider making smart tower boxes, too. "We have been banging on all the doors of the server makers to get them to do 1P towers," says Demski, who agrees with this assessment.
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