AMD Unveils Rev F Opterons, Prepares for Quad Cores in Mid-2007
Published: August 16, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
The much-awaited and overdue "Santa Rosa" Rev F edition of the Opteron processors are being launched by Advanced Micro Devices today, and the company is clearly hoping to demonstrate to server makers and server buyers that the Opteron has plenty of technical and economic leverage against a revitalized server chip lineup from rival Intel. While AMD is launching the Rev F chips today, it is doing so somewhat quietly and in a manner that is reminiscent of the launch of the "Montecito" dual-core Itanium chip by Intel.
While the Rev F Opterons are about six weeks late coming to market, it is important to not take the comparisons too far. The Montecito chip is, depending on how generous you want to be to Intel, anywhere from 18 to 24 months late, and while it is in many respects worth the wait, the delay in the Montecito chips has made Intel's server partners, who backed the Itanium deal by peddling single-core processors in an enterprise server market where dual-core processors were the norm. While Intel quietly launched the Montecito chips on July 18 and said that it was shipping the chip in volume, its server partners have not, for the most part, got Montecito-based machines qualified and in volume production yet. This is where the Rev F chips bear some similarity. While AMD's Vladimir Rozanovich, who is director of AMD's North American commercial business, was adamant when I talked with him last week that the Rev Fs had been shipping to server partners for quite some time and the chips were shipping in volume, AMD's key server partners--Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard are being a bit vague about when they are going to get Rev F machines into the field.
IBM was able to twist AMD's arm to co-host its System x Rev F server line pre-launch on August 1--see IBM Broadens Use of Opterons in System x Servers for more on these machines--but the company has not yet said when these machines will ship. And HP, which will "support the Opteron launch" by announcing its use of Rev F chips in its ProLiant rack servers and BladeSystem blade servers, is not providing availability or pricing of these machines. And Sun, which is very aggressive about Opterons, is announcing two entry servers--one based on the single-socket Opteron AM2 socket (a modified socket 940 chip, not the new 1207-pin socket used in the Rev Fs) and a real two-socket Rev F--but it did not say diddleysquat about how Rev F chips would be put into the "Galaxy" Sun Fire X4200, X4500, X4600 rack servers or the 8000 series blade servers. This seems odd to me, and I triple-checked with AMD that the Rev F chips were shipping in volume. No one wants to point fingers here, to be sure, because we're all just one happy Opteron family. But you would think that the announcement of the chips would coincide, more or less, with the availability and pricing of the machines that use them.
In any event, with today's launch of the Rev F chips, the chips are here, they are named, they have prices, and AMD is ready to sell, sell, sell against the "Woodcrest" dual-core Xeon 5100s, the Montecito dual-core Itanium 9000s, and the impending dual-core "Tulsa" Xeon MPs.
As most of us know now, the Rev F Opertons are built using the same 90 nanometer chip technologies that the Rev E single- and dual-core Opterons that preceded them were built with. The chip may use the same process, but it includes support for DDR2 main memory, which runs cooler and faster than DDR1 memory, which the Rev E chips used. Because of the new memory, the Rev F chips have to have a new memory controller built onto the core, so that is one of the new features. So is the "Pacifica" AMD-V hardware-assisted virtualization electronics in them, which are akin to Intel's own VT extensions to support virtualization. Because of the integrated memory controller and the high-bandwidth HyperTransport links between processors and memory in the Opteron architecture, Rozanovich says that AMD expects to show that the Rev F implementation of virtualization will have significant performance benefits compared to the VT extensions in Intel's Xeon and Itanium processors. The Rev F chips have 1 MB of integrated L2 cache per core and support 1 GHz HyperTransport links. The Rev F machines support 667 MHz DDR2 main memory, but the AM2 sockets (for single-socket machines) support 800 MHz DDR2 memory.
Like Intel, AMD is changing up its naming scheme for its processors as it rolls out its new line, adding a fourth digit to the names of its Opterons. This extra digit will actually mean something in the case of AMD, in that it will be used to designate whether an Opteron has one, two, or four cores. In the past, Opterons came in the 100 series for single-socket boxes, the 200 series for two-socket boxes, and the 800 series for machines with four or more sockets. (Yes, logically AMD should have called it the 400 series. But who said the IT business was logical?) The Opteron 1000 series Rev F chips are the ones that go into single-socket machines now, and they plug into the new AM2 socket rather than a 939-pin socket. The Opteron 2000 series uses the new 1207-pin socket that AMD created for the Rev F chips as well as its future quad-core "Deerhound" processors, which are expected in the mid-2007. (In theory, that should be less than a year from now, but "mid" means a lot of different things in the computer business, usually anywhere from June 1 to September 1.) The Opteron 8000 series is for four-socket boxes, or machines that glom together multiple cell boards to make larger servers. So the first digit means what kind of box, the second digit means how many cores (there are no single-core Rev F chips, at least not unless AMD starts selling chips with one dud core at a discount), and the remaining two digits will denote the relative performance the chips. Each chip can also have an Extremely Efficient (35 watt), Highly Efficient (68 watt), or Special Edition (120 watt) extension. Chips without these EE, HE, or SE extensions run at the normal 95 watts of the Rev F line. Rev F chips with the name XX12, where XX is 82, 22, or 12, run at 1.8 GHz, and each jump up in the last two digits--from 14, to 16, to 18, to 20--jumps the clock speed up 200 MHz. By the way, the Opteron 1000 series chips have a maximum heat dissipation of 103 watts, not 95 watts like the Rev F chips.
So the entry Opteron 1210 processor is a dual-core chip for an AM2 single-socket server running at 1.8 GHz, and it will cost $255 in 1000-unit quantities. The top-end Opteron 1218 runs at 2.6 GHz and costs $749, but it you really want the performance and you don't mind hitting 120 watts, then you can get the faster 2.8 GHz Opteron 1220 SE for $899. (By the way, there are no HE or EE variants on the Opteron 1000 series, which is something that AMD has been chastised about from many different vendors and still has not changed. There are Athlon 64 X2 parts that run at 35 watts, but you can't get them.) The base two-socket chip is the Opteron 2210, which is a 1.8 GHz chip that costs $255 as well. The lower voltage Opteron HE parts are available for 2 GHz, 2.2 GHz, and 2.4 GHz parts, and this time around, AMD is not charging such a hefty premium for HE parts. You used to jump to bin spots to get the price of an HE chip within a family, and now, according to Rozanovich, AMD is setting the price so it is only a 50 percent premium compared to standard Opteron parts. So, for instance, a 2 GHz Opteron 2212 costs $377 and burns 95 watts, but if you want to cut that back to 68 watts, you pay AMD $450 for an Opteron 2212 HE, or a 43 percent premium. In some cases, the HE premium is very small, small enough to make it a no-brainer to just pick this variant. The top-end Opteron 2000 series chip is the 2220 SE, which runs at 2.8 GHz and which costs $1,165. For larger servers, AMD is spanning from the 2 GHz Opteron 8212 (which costs $873) to the 2.6 GHz Opteron 8218 (which costs $2,149). HE variants command a 15 to 21 percent premium (depending on the model), and the 8220 SE chip running at 2.8 GHz costs $2,649.
With the future Deerhound variants of the Rev F chips, AMD is moving to a 65 nanometer process and will be able to cram four Opteron cores onto a single chip. These Deerhound chips will use the same 1207-pin socket and will keep inside the same thermal envelope as the new Santa Rosa dual-core Rev F chips. Rozanovich says that AMD will roll out 65 nanometer manufacturing first in its mobile chips , then in quad-core Opteron chips for servers, then for Athlon desktops, then for dual-core Opteron chips for servers and workstations. He added that the Rev F socket will have about the same five-year production life of the Rev E 940-pin socket, and that AMD will eventually offer speed bumps for Rev E chips, too. You are not going to have to upgrade to Rev F to boost performance. Although with the power savings from DDR2 memory, the integrated virtualization, and other tweaks, it is probably a good idea if thermals are an issue and virtualization is something you plan to deploy.
IBM Broadens Use of Opterons in System x Servers
AMD Says It Can Still Beat Intel Cores with Opterons