AMD puts pressure on Intel with new generation of server chips

Advanced Micro Devices said today it has a new six-core server microprocessor debuting months ahead of schedule and it will have new server processors with as many as 16 cores coming in the next couple of years.

The product introductions show AMD is serious about keeping up with Intel and, if possible, leaping ahead of Intel in some ways. The company announced the moves on the sixth anniversary of its introduction of the Opteron microprocessor, which stole a march on Intel when it debuted in 2003.

AMD has since fallen behind Intel on a number of fronts (note its conservative position on its earnings outlook yesterday). And Intel holds its historical four-to-one market share advantage over AMD. Even so, the new AMD plans are significant. AMD will ship its six-core (meaning a single chip with six processors on it) Opteron chip, code-named Istanbul, in June. That chip will be 30 percent faster than current quad-core processors that fit into the same hardware.

AMD also unveiled a new hardware infrastructure for its future Opteron processors. Dubbed Direct Connect Architecture 2.0, the new platform will accommodate chips with up to 12 cores initially, with better virtualization performance and new levels of low-power consumption.

In 2010, AMD plans to ship its AMD Opteron 6000 series for two-chip and four-chip servers for the high end of the server market. The 6000 series processors, code-named Maranello and Magny-Cours, will have eight cores and 12 cores, respectively. Magny-Cours could debut in the first quarter of 2010.

Another new series coming in 2010, the AMD Opteron 4000 series, will debut in 2010 with one-chip and two-chip configurations. These code-named San Marino and Lisbon processors will debut with four cores and six cores, respectively.

Further out, the Interlagos processor will have 12 and 16 cores, debuting in 2011. Now it’s your move, Intel. The world’s biggest chip maker indicated it’s not scared. It launched a six-core chip last year and will have an eight-processor core by the end of the year. It’s worth noting that Intel’s hyperthreading technology allows it to treat one core as two, via software. Hence, Intel says its eight-core chip does the work of a 16-core chip.