Just as the dust begins to settle over Intel's Nehalem launch, AMD is in party pooper mode. At it's 10th anniversary party, AMD said it was bringing forward the launch of its 6-core Opteron codename Istanbul, to June. And as of today, the product is in the hands of OEM such as HP and Tyan who have also announced product around the Istanbul core.
Server consolidation and virtualisation are all about resources. Initially, the focus was on getting more out of existing hardware but as IT departments face a bleak two years of serious financial constraint, any purchases must provide significant headroom for the future as well as improve the consolidation of IT today.
Even those who have not yet decided to virtualise their servers are now looking at it. According to IDC, in 2009 virtual servers will outgrow physical server by 10%. In 2010 virtual server growth will outgrow physical servers by 20%. But for that to happen, servers need to be able to support dense virtualisation through server cores, memory support and I/O. It is against this backdrop that AMD has launched Istanbul, the first 6-core x64 processor.
At the launch briefing Pat Patla, VP & General Manager Server/Workstation Division, AMD talked about how AMD sees the number of cores per processor as being targeted at different segments. "We differentiate and set a strategy on usage based platforms and key workloads. Where performance is king then customers want to maximise more cores and will want the six-core processors. The quad-core AMD Opteron processor is the answer for the dense cloud computing space."
For the first release of Istanbul this is important. AMD will not be releasing all the usual variations on its processor family. The HE, SE and EE (all lower power models) will not be available until Q3/2009. As a result, the initial target is for the power customer but Patla was quick to point out that processor power does not high energy costs.
"We are the only six-core processor with Direct Connect Architecture (DCA) for 2P, 4P and 8P platforms" said Patla. In the tests conducted by AMD and its partners, we are able to get 30% more performance per watt in the same socket as our existing processors."
With Istanbul, AMD has introduced new technology inside the processor and the platform to improve performance. One of these features is HT (HyperTransport) Assist. At present, when you have multiple Opteron CPU's, a processor looking for memory uses a broadcast mechanism to see where the data is stored. With HT Assist turned on, it logs where the data is stored. This is done using 1Mb of each CPU's L3 cache as a directory of where the cache lines being used by that CPU are actually stored.
When allied with the new HyperTransport 3, high speed bus, Amd is claiming that it can now execute 10 transactions where it would have previously been possible to just execute 2 transactions. This improvement, according to Patla, is particularly evident when you are using 4P and 8P platforms and will especially appeal to those customers doing HPC, DV and Virtualisation.
There are two other key technologies inside Istanbul. AMD-V which is the virtualisation suite and AMD-P which is the power management suite.
AMD-V is a small set of technologies that have been developed to work with heavily virtualised environments. One area where AMD has invested a lot of time and effort in its virtualisation suite has been the support of Live Migration as part of AMD-V.
AMD-P consists of several different technologies such as Enhanced AND PowerNow! This allows each processor core to adjust the speed at which it runs depending on application demand. One result of this is that you are not wasting power on unused cores that are sitting idle. Another technology along side PowerNow is CoolCore which then cuts power to unused transistor areas.