AMD identifies government markets for new chip

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s newly released Opteron 64-bit processor can open new markets for systems integrators in high-performance computing, migration services and server consolidation, said Rick Indyke, federal business manager for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company.

The Opteron processor, officially unveiled April 22, is AMD's first offering in the emerging market of 64-bit computing platforms.

Initially it will be used in single, two or four processor-per-server configurations. The 64-bit computing platform is widely believed to be the successor to the 32-bit x86 platforms that underlie most desktop computers, laptops and servers today.

The 64-bit architecture allows greater amounts of memory to be used. A 64-bit chip can keep tabs on 1,000 gigabytes of physical memory space, whereas a 32-bit chip is limited to only 4 gigabytes, according to the AMD Opteron Web page. The increase allows servers to run complex programs such as transactional databases or customer relationship management systems with greater speed.

With the Opteron processor, AMD is competing in the 64-bit market with chipmaker Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., which last year began shipping the second generation of its 64-bit processors, called Itanium.

Indyke said AMD has lined up approximately 30 system builders that will incorporate the chip into their own servers and workstations. IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., announced April 22 it would be introducing a line of servers and a DB2 database solution based on Opteron.

AMD claims that the Opteron processor offers easier backward compatibility with existing 32-bit x86 applications. According to Indyke, this backward compatibility opens opportunities in the field of migration services.

Traditionally, when an agency adopts a new computing platform, the change from an old system to a new one has to be done at once, involving considerable agency resources in manpower and capital. Migration services involve upgrading systems at a more gradual, cost-efficient pace.

Because existing 32-bit applications can run on the Opteron platform, they can be updated whenever they become obsolete, rather than being recompiled or replaced only because the associated hardware is being changed, Indyke said.

"The value the systems integrators see in this is that they can offer migration strategies and services strategies that allow them to build up long-term relationships with their customers," Indyke said.

AMD's initial marketing focus in the government space will be on high-performance computational environments, such as the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The labs often combine or cluster multiple servers to tackle large-scale computations.

The high-performance computing market has been traditionally dominated by companies like Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., and Sun Microsystems Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., Indyke said.

AMD offers the chance for integrators to compete with these companies by using AMD-based servers built by systems builders as part of a high performance computing solution. Systems integrators can shave 25 percent or more off the price per server, the company claimed.

Indyke said the company is in talks with a major integrator, which is pursuing this market by starting a high-performance computing practice and using AMD's chips as part of an offering.

Server consolidation is another market Indyke identified for AMD. Here, agencies simplify server management by consolidating equipment into central locations and using fewer but more powerful servers.

"People see the ability to use an Opteron server to reduce the total number of servers they have to support," Indyke said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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