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Nvidia chipset targets Opteron workstations

Posted: 24 Apr 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nvidia? opteron processor? cpu chipset? opteron chipset? nforce pro 250?

Graphics chip designer Nvidia Corp. will attempt to stake out a workstation market for Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit Opteron PC server processor with its nForce3 Pro chipset.

The single-chip device provides networking, storage, and peripheral interfaces for uni-processor systems based on the new AMD CPUs.

Nvidia is carving out a unique position that it hopes will mirror the success of Intel Corp., whose Xeon line has found sockets in single-CPU workstations as well as multiprocessor PC servers. One analyst estimated Nvidia could eke out a business of tens of thousands of unit sales a quarter within a year with the chip.

"There's a market there, though it's not a huge market. My sense is there is a significant Xeon workstation market today with hundreds of thousands of units sold each quarter," said Dean McCarron, principal of Mercury Research.

Nvidia is alone in enabling with core logic an Operton workstation. Chipset makers such as Acer Labs, Silicon Integrated Systems and Via Technologies are planning chipsets for AMD's desktop Athlon 64 processor that will be launched in September, added McCarron.

Nvidia may face one hurdle with its workstation chipset. AMD is not expected to roll out its single-processor version, the Opteron series 100, until this fall. So OEMs would initially have to spend extra to buy a series 200, two-way capable processor, an added cost systems makers might be unwilling to take on.

This fall, Nvidia will release its nForce Pro 250 chip which features a GbE MAC and four serial ATA ports. Those features roughly match what Intel's latest chipsets offer for its recently released upgrade of the Pentium 4, dubbed Prescott.

However, Nvidia's initial offering, the nForce3 Pro 150, available immediately, only sports 10/100Mbps Ethernet and three Ultra ATA-133 storage interconnects. Both chips support USB 2.0, AC '97 audio and PCI as well as an AGP 8x interface for graphics. Both also support RAID levels 0, 1, and 0+1.

Nvidia will aim its existing Quadro graphics cards at the new Opteron workstations, said Drew Henry, GM of Nvidia's chipset group. Separately, Nvidia will upgrade its existing nForce2 chipsets with serial ATA capabilities this summer, he added.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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