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AMD's Opteron moves into high-end embedded markets

Posted: 01 Apr 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:opteron? processor? advanced micro devices? amd?

The Opteron processor is headed to high-end embedded markets, including medical imaging, storage appliances and carrier-grade telecom, according to Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

The company will support the existing Opteron silicon part numbers for a minimum of five years and will provide design support to customers in the embedded sector, said Iain Morris, SVP of AMD's personal-connectivity solutions group. The company is targeting a fast-growing market already served by many silicon vendors: "There is no one big dog" in high-end embedded, Morris said.

Len Rosenthal, marketing VP at Pathscale Inc., said that Pathscale's compiler and analysis tools and its HyperTransport-to-Infiniband chip will support the embedded Opteron effort. "In some image-processing applications, there are dozens or even hundreds of CPUs. By going to a 64bit processor, those vendors can use a smaller number of chips," Rosenthal said. "Another advantage is sending data out directly, on the HyperTransport link."

Sun Microsystems Inc. said it will use the Opteron in a line of server blades that supports the Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) standard. Ed Khouri, product line director for Sun's Netra systems and networking division, said telcos are likely to adopt the blades for 3G wireless networks and voice-over-Internet Protocol offerings.

Sun said it will offer two versions of its next-generation ATCA blades, one based on the Opteron and the other on Sun's Ultrasparc silicon. The blades will support both the Solaris and CG Linux OSes.

The storage market, which needs the highest amount of I/O bandwidth possible, could prove fertile ground for the Opteron and its built-in HyperTransport links, said Nathan Brookwood, president of market research firm Insight64. The Opteron can have as many as three HyperTransport bridges, which would provide links to dedicated storage controllers developed by EMC Corp. and others.

"Storage appliances need bandwidth, and the HyperTransport on the Opteron has I/O bandwidth that is far in excess of what Intel can offer on its Xeon processors. Intel's bandwidth is limited by its front-side bus," Brookwood said.

The Opteron 852, with three HyperTransport I/O modules, is priced at $1,514 in 1,000-unit quantities; the Model 252 is priced at $851 in the same quantities; and the Opteron 152, aimed at single-processor applications, is scheduled to be available this month for a price of $637. The parts, produced with a 90nm process, will be offered to embedded customers with no revisions to the silicon, the company said.

Besides Sun, AMD partner companies that will use the Opteron processor include Broadcom Corp., for the ServerWorks product line, and Nvidia Corp.'s chipset operation. And LSI Logic Corp. executives said the company's RapidChip prototyping products will support embedded-system design projects using the Opteron processors.

Meanwhile, AMD is putting engineering design resources into new products intended to marry AMD's 64bit technology with features optimized for the embedded market, said Morris, who runs AMD's overall embedded initiative, based in Austin, Texas. That effort is being directed in part by Richard Witek, who designed the StrongARM processor at Digital Equipment Corp. before developing a MIPS-architecture embedded processor at Alchemy Semiconductor Corp., an Austin startup that AMD purchased several years ago.

AMD offers the MIPS-architecture products developed by its Alchemy operation, as well as two flavors of the Geode X86 embedded silicon. AMD bought the integrated Geode products from National Semiconductor Corp. last year.

AMD also offers versions of its Duron-based silicon to the embedded market under the Geode brand.

- David Lammers

EE Times

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