AMD unleashes 12-core Opteron processors

— 11:01 AM on March 29, 2010

The high end of the Opteron product family has just gotten a little bit bigger. AMD has announced the availability of its 6000-series Opteron platform, which combines 8- and 12-core processors with a brand-new G34 socket, DDR3 support, newer I/O technologies, and many other improvements.

At the heart of today's launch is Magny-Cours, a new processor design made up of two 346-mm² dies totaling 1.808 billion transistors and sharing a single CPU package. AMD targets 6000-series Opterons at two- and four-socket servers, and the firm says Opteron 6000-based systems from vendors like HP, Dell, Acer, Cray, and SGI are on the way. Here are the various Magny-Cours flavors you can expect to see in the wild:

Processor Cores Clock speed L3 cache HT3 speed ACP Price
Opteron 6176 SE 12 2.3 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 105 W $1,386
Opteron 6174 12 2.2 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 80 W $1,165
Opteron 6172 12 2.1 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 80 W $989
Opteron 6168 12 1.9 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 80 W $744
Opteron 6136 8 2.4 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 80 W $744
Opteron 6134 8 2.3 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 80 W $523
Opteron 6128 8 2.0 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 80 W $266
Opteron 6164 HE 12 1.7 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 65 W $744
Opteron 6128 HE 8 2.0 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 65 W $523
Opteron 6124 HE 8 1.8 GHz 12 MB 6.4 GT/s 65 W $455

Each one of these new CPUs has four DDR3 memory channels and can support up to 12 memory modules. In fact, the Opteron 6000 series inaugurates a new class of 2P system that can host up to 96GB of memory and features a total of eight memory channels. AMD believes such systems are especially well suited for some key applications, including virtualization, databases, and HPC installations.

In an interesting twist, all Opteron 6000 CPUs should work in either two- or four-socket configurations—so no more price differences between 2P- and 4P-capable variants of the same CPUs (or, in AMD's words, the end of the "4P tax"). AMD anticipates that its customers, the larger server vendors, will offer relatively inexpensive 4P Opteron machines based on 6000-series processors, in addition to 2P systems with comparatively large amounts of memory. By pursuing these new frontiers in 2P and 4P capability and pricing, AMD hopes to capture a sizable portion of the server market in a competitive environment made rather difficult by the Intel's formidable 32-nm Xeons.

AMD has measured an 88% integer performance boost and a 119% floating-point performance increase with the 6000 series compared to previous-gen Istanbul six-core Opterons.  CPU-to-CPU communication speeds have increased by 33% thanks to a faster 6.4 GT/s HyperTransport rate. The new Direct Connect Architecture 2.0 also reduces the maximum number of hops between sockets in a 4P configuration from two to one. Full AMD-V virtualization capabilities come as standard, as well.

Just because Magny-Cours gathers 12 cores on a single package doesn't mean it's a power guzzler. As you can see in the table above, 12-core Opteron 6100 processors can be had with ACP ratings as low as 65W. In addition, AMD has implemented deeper C1E sleep states; CoolSpeed, a new feature that lets server admins specify temperature limits within the data center; Advanced Platform Management Link, which enables remote monitoring and control of power states and cooling; and support for low-voltage, 1.35V DDR3 memory modules.

The Opteron 6000 series will make use of AMD's 5600-series chipset, which delivers I/O virtualization, HyperTransport 3.0, and PCI Express 2.0 connectivity.

AMD intends to keep the G34 platform alive for some time. The announcement specifies that next-generation Opterons based on the Bulldozer architecture will work in the same socket with the same chipset as 6000-series Opterons. (Bulldozer is due next year.)

Before then, in the second quarter, we should see the other half of AMD's revamped Opteron offering: the Opteron 4000 series. Code-named Lisbon, those chips will essentially have the same silicon as Magny-Cours, just with a single die per package (so either six or eight cores). Expect them in the second quarter of this year as part of a new C32 platform aimed at one- and two-socket servers.

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