AMD doubles down with Athlon MP

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) Tuesday moved into the server and multiprocessor workstation markets with its 1GHz and 1.2GHz Athlon MP (multiprocessor) chips, as well as the AMD-760 MP chipset for the new processors. It is AMD's first chipset to support multiple processors on a single motherboard.

The new chipset will support up to two processors, and is aimed at use inside PCs for the engineering, digital content creation (DCC) and financial markets, Linda Kohout, brand manager for AMD said. "We're specifically going after the financial market, the people who need accuracy of our floating point capabilities," she added. AMD has also extended its 3DNow offerings to include 3DNow Professional on the new Athlon MP processors, for CAD (computer-assisted design) and DCC applications.

The MP architecture is designed to have the "processor working in concert with the chipset," Kohout said. Neither processor is idle when the other is in use, and the first processor can use the memory cache of the second processor if it needs to, she added.

The chipset also has a cache coherency protocol, which lets data transfer smoothly when data from one processor is needed by the other, and when data is shared between the two, reducing memory traffic and increasing bandwidth.

The company's offerings will focus on the entry level server market, of one and two processor systems. "They are natural places for us to try and put our systems in place," Kohout said.

"We're also enabling specific frequencies that our enterprise customers are asking for, and we'll be offering them for a period of time that's acceptable to them," she said, noting that the company will stick to the architecture behind the chips until at least 2003.

More than 20 server vendors, including Alienware Corp., Boldata Technology Inc. and Racksaver Inc. will begin offering Athlon MP servers immediately, with others, including VA Linux Systems Inc., to follow. However, top-tier vendors such as IBM Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. are not among them.

"We are working with some of the larger OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), but a lot of them are more picky," Kohout said.

Because this is AMD's first venture into the server market, it is not unusual to start off with smaller vendors, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research Inc. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything about AMD, it's just reflecting normal (risk averseness)," McCarron said. Large OEMs can't afford to ship out servers without rigorous testing beforehand, as many of the servers will be used in mission critical settings, he added. "We've seen the same thing happen with components from Intel (Corp.)"Servers and workstations are available immediately, with individual chips priced at US$215 for the 1GHz processor and US$265 for the 1.2GHz processor. Both prices are in 1,000 unit quantities, a standard measurement in chip pricing.

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