AMD's Opteron debuts

AMD's Opteron debuts

After nearly a year of hype and development, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) set loose its new 64-bit Opteron processors, which the company hopes will attract buyers who seek the power advantages of 64-bit computing but are leery of the costs involved in adopting other 64-bit architectures.

The company surrounded itself with partners at its New York launch event, including software and hardware vendor IBM , Linux makers SuSE Linux AG and Red Hat and database leader Oracle Also in attendance was Microsoft , which said it was on track to complete by the end of this year an Opteron-tailored version of its forthcoming Windows Server 2003 operating system.

IBM offered a major vote of confidence in Opteron by announcing it would begin selling - in the second half of the year - Opteron-based systems in its eServer product line. The company was the first top-tier server vendor to commit to developing around Opteron.

"Today, we're responding to our customers in this space who have been asking us for an IBM solution based on this type of technology," IBM's vice-president of eServer systems, Mark Shearer, said. "(Opteron) offers compelling performance at a competitive price."

"Industry-standard pricing" was a mantra of AMD executives speaking at the event. Based on the widely supported x86 instruction set, Opteron can run both 64-bit programs and the 32-bit programs prevalent in the industry today. AMD hopes that flexibility will attract customers who have so far avoided more-expensive 64-bit platforms.

While Opteron isn't expected to compete directly with Intel 's 64-bit Itanium chips, which are based on a new explicitly parallel instruction computing (EPIC) architecture, AMD nonetheless took some shots during the launch at its biggest rival.

"By the end of this year, AMD will sell more AMD 64-bit-based platforms than our competitor has sold since launching its 64-bit platform years ago," general manager and vice-president of AMD's microprocessor business unit, Marty Seyer, said. "Why will the AMD Opteron processor succeed? Simply put, because we did it right."

AMD executives emphasised the niche Opteron will fill in offering customers a 64-bit system without requiring them to port existing applications.

"It is time for all of us in the technology industry to change our ways. No new technology without real customer benefits should be tackled," AMD Chief Executive Officer, Hector de J. Ruiz, said. "The cost of change must be minimised. New technology should not introduce new barriers. It should knock them down."

Likely early adopters for Opteron include companies in the life sciences and industrial fields, such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, biology researchers, automobile makers and petroleum firms, said IBM executive, Dave Turek, head of the company's newly formed Deep Computing unit. IBM decided to build Opteron servers because of the frequent questions and requests about the technology it was fielding, he said.

"I don't think this will be like a traditional technology introduction, with a slow uptake and migration. I think you'll see a ready-made market that will jump on this pretty aggressively," Turek said.

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