AMD Demonstrates Dual-Processor Machine

AdvancedMicro Devices (AMD), which has made steady inroads into Intel’s desktop CPUdominance, is taking aim at a new market -- high-end workstations and servers.

At anOctober demonstration at the 2000 Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, AMD offereda sneak preview of its new AMD-760 MP chipset, running a computer with dualAthlon processors. The inability to put more than one CPU in a box has kept AMDfirmly on the desktop -- until now.

AMD isn’tdelivering the new offering yet. The 760 chipset won’t be available until thefirst quarter of 2001, with dual-processor systems available the followingquarter, according to Drew Prairie, AMD spokesman.

NathanBrookwood, principal analyst at the market research and consulting organizationInsight64, says AMD’s expansion is significant. “AMD right now is participatingat the high-end of the desktop PC market, but they’re precluded from the serverand workstation market because of the lack of a dual-processor configuration.For the first time, Athlon processors have a shot at the high-end market.”

Prairiesays AMD’s cautious approach to breaching the server market is deliberate. “Weintroduced the Athlon into the performance desktop space, and wanted to establishourselves there, then move on up to larger four, eight, and 16-wayenvironments. You have to walk before you run.”

Just as itdid when it entered desktop territory, AMD will have to give OEM’s a reason todrop in its CPUs instead of Intel’s. Prairie says AMD’s Point-to-Point Bustechnology is one reason. In the point-to-point configuration, each processorhas a dedicated 266-MHz connection to the chipset, instead of sharing theconnection, the way Intel multiprocessor systems do. Sharing connections slowsdown overall performance, Prairie says.

Anotherselling point, Brookwood explains, is Athlon’s speed. The 760-MP chipset is anextension of another new chipset called the 760, which will replace the current750 chipset. “AMD, as it exits this quarter, will be selling processorssubstantially faster than those by Intel. The 760, because of Double Data Rate(DDR) memory support, combined with a 1.2 GHz CPU speed, will be very close to[the forthcoming] Pentium IV, at 1.4 or 1.5 GHz.” If AMD can get the dualprocessor platform out when it says, it could have a three-month lead on thePentium IV, Brookwood says. In the server world, three months is a hefty chunkof time.

Brookwoodsays if the past is a prologue, AMD will do well in the new market. “The marketfor servers, especially entry-level, is growing rapidly. Intel has a verycommanding share of it, almost all in x86. Clearly, AMD Athlon has theperformance to make it a very viable competitor in this space. Of course, oncethe platform is available, AMD still has to make sure it’s a credible supplier.They’ve demonstrated over the last 12 or 18 months they certainly have what ittakes to do that.”

Lining upOEMs, however, is often easier said than done. AMD’s major partners for desktopsystems -- Compaq, IBM, and Gateway -- definitely have an interest, Prairiesays. But they have yet to land firm takers in the server market from “top-tierOEMs,” he remarks. “We won’t penetrate any tier one [OEMs] until we have thedual-processor platform available.”

Onceavailable, Brookwood believes AMD has a good shot at the big boys, “if theycontinue on their path of very good execution. They’ve delivered everythingthey said they were going to deliver when they said they were going to deliverit for the past 12 to15 months.” But he also sounds a warning: “If they can’tconvince the Compaqs and IBMs in the space, it’s going to make it much harderfor them to get a toehold.”

And thenthere’s Dell, which remains very loyal to Intel and has thus far shut out AMD.There is discussion between the two companies, Prairie says, but no partnershipyet.

Inanticipation of the new market opening up, and to continue to meet currentdemand, AMD built a new fabrication facility in Dresden, Germany, that beganproduction in June. It will be at 100 percent capacity by next year, Prairiesaid.

Index:
Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., www.amd.com

Insight64,Saratoga, Calif., www.insight64.com

Intel Corp.,Santa Clara, Calif., www.intel.com