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By | Timothy Prickett Morgan 21st September 2009 05:09

AMD grows very own Opteron chipsets

Niche play. For now

Advanced Micro Devices has delivered its first server chipsets derived from its acquisition of ATI Technologies.

The Fiorano platform that launches today will have three different chipsets, not the one pairing of the I/O hub and southbridge that we had been lead to expect when AMD sped up its Opteron chip roll out in April, just ahead of the debut of the six-core "Istanbul" Opteron processors for two-socket and quad-socket boxes back in early June.

Before AMD kicked its roadmap into high gear early in 2009, the Fiorano platform was described as the SR5690 I/O hub, which supported the I/O virtualization technology called IOMMU, short for I/O memory management unit. The other half of the chipset included the SP5100 southbridge. This chipset was created to support any RevF socket and added support for HyperTransport 3 links, which debuted with the quad-core "Shanghai" Opterons (sold as the 2300 and 8300 series) and which was were also cooked into Istanbuls (sold as the 2400 and 8400 series). HT3 interconnects have more than twice the bandwidth of the prior HT2 links. The Fiorano platform was also expected to bring support for PCI-Express 2.0 peripherals to servers as well.

In roadmaps from late last year and early this year, AMD had originally planned for this same SR5690/SP5100 pairing for the twelve-core "Magny-Cours" and six-core "San Paulo" six-core Opterons, and AMD was going to add another I/O hub called the SR5670 to the mix as the "Maranello" platform. The specifics of this southbridge were not detailed, but presumably it had fewer I/O lanes and was aimed at two-socket servers instead of four-socket and larger boxes as the SR5690/SP5100 seemed to be.

In the spring, AMD decided to chop its servers into two distinct families and to create two different distinct platforms, one keeping the Maranello name and the other using the "San Marino" name. The Opteron 6000 series processors - which is what the Mangy-Cours Opterons will be sold as - were tweaked to come in eight-core and twelve-core processors using the G34 socket and to sport DDR3 main memory controllers on the chips. This platform kept the Maranello name.

The Maranello platform is aimed at machines with two or four processor sockets. The Opteron 4000 series processors, code-named "Lisbon," replaced the San Paulo chips, and they come in quad-core or six-core variants. These chips are intended to use the C32 socket, support DDR3 memory and PCI-Express 2.0 peripherals, and span one or two socket boxes.

It looks like AMD didn't want to wait for the Maranello and San Marino platforms to roll out a complete family of chipsets, so today, the SR5690, SR5670, and SR5650 I/O hubs will be paired with the SP5100 southbridge to give motherboard and server makers a chance to cook up a wider variety of motherboards than they would have been able to do with the original Fiorano SR5690/SP5100 pairing.

Whither the tier one?

Oddly enough, as we go to press, AMD has not yet released the feeds and speeds that tell you the differences between the three Fiorano chipset pairings, except to say that the I/O configurations and power consumption of the chips are different. The Fiorano implementation of the SR5690/SP5100 pair can scale to a maximum of eight processor sockets, if motherboard makers and server makers want to go there. But the Maranello version of the chipset will apparently top out at four sockets.

The SR5650 seems to be aimed at low-power servers and AMD's Highly Efficient (HE) and Extremely Efficient (EE) Opteron parts, which are rated at 55 watts and 40 watts, respectively, compared to 75 watts for standard parts. Motherboard maker Tyan, in fact, has taken the low-power "Kroner" server specification that El Reg told you about back in June. The Kroner spec involves making a half-width, two-socket motherboard, which allows server makers to cram two who servers into a single 1U or 2U chassis.

Tyan's S8208 motherboard, which will be available on November 9, pairs the Istanbul Opteron EE chip with the SR5650/SP5100 chipset to radically cut back on power consumption. How much? Tyan is not saying yet. This board will only be sold in custom engagements for hyperscale data centers. Tyan has an ATX board based on the Fiorano chipsets called the S8005 that comes out in October, which appears to be a single-socket server board, and another MEB super-dense board called the S8212 for two-socket boxes that will be available before the end of September. Thus far, Tyan does not seem to have four-socket boards for the Fiorano chipsets. Tyan is also selling 1U servers using these three boards, according to AMD.

Over at motherboard and whitebox server maker has three motherboards it is kicking out using the Fiorano chipsets. The H83D13+ and H8DIi+ uses the SR5690/SP5100 chipset combination and creates a two-socket EATX board with either Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand NICs. This board is available in September. The H8DA6+ and H8DA6i+ are also EATX boards, but have features that are aimed at rendering and technical computing workloads.

Specifically, this is a two-socket board that has 16 DDR3 main memory slots, four PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots, two x4 slots, and one PCI slot. It ships in October. So does a SWTX variant of this board, which sports four RevF sockets, 16 memory slots, and six PCI-Express slots. Super Micro will be kicking out 1U, 2U, and 4U as well as blade servers based on these boards and Fiorano chipsets over in September and October.

The details are a bit sketchy on the mobos and boxes coming out of Tyan and Super Micro.

So where are all of the tier one and tier two server makers when it comes to the Fiorano chipsets? What are Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Fujitsu planning? Not much, apparently.

"We don’t expect them to come to market now," explains Gina Longoria, server and workstations senior product manager at AMD. "They are focusing all of their efforts on time to market with Maranello."

The Magny-Cours chips and the Maranello platform are expected in the first quarter. Presumably, the major server makers are also looking ahead to the Lisbon Opterons and their related San Marino platforms, too Thus far, AMD has not said when to expect these to come to market, but the odds favor the second quarter.

By the way, Longoria says that AMD is not going to make its own motherboards, unlike Intel. And she adds that AMD is not releasing pricing information on the chipsets either and that the chipsets started shipping to motherboard makers in August so they would be ready to launch here in September. ®

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