AMD launches 16-core Opteron 6200 'Interlagos' CPU

AMD is continuing its push on Intel's data centre stranglehold, launching the 'Interlagos'-based Opteron 6200 family of processors with up to 16 cores per chip and up to four chips per server.

Based on the latest iteration of the company's 'Bulldozer' architecture, the Opteron 6200 promises much: according to AMD's own specifications, it boosts performance by up to 84 per cent and offers 73 per cent more memory bandwidth than previous generation chips, while drawing half the power per core and costing - overall - between a third and two-thirds less.

As a Bulldozer chip, the Opteron 6200 inherits that architecture's 'Flex FP' layout: a single floating-point processor is shared between two cores, a move which AMD claims offers improved processor coherency, but which is thought to be largely responsible for lacklustre benchmark results for its consumer-grade Bulldozer chips.

The Opteron 6200 also includes a software-definable Thermal Design Profile - TDP - power cap, allowing engineers to put an upper limit on the power draw and heat output of the chip, along with the usual Turbo CORE technology for speed boosts in unithreaded processing tasks.

As with the 'Magny Cores' 12-core processor that preceded it, the Opteron 6200 is designed for installation in motherboards featuring up to four sockets - and at 16 cores per processor, that's an impressive 64 cores per server.

Each chip features a base frequency of up to 3.3GHz, rising to 3.7GHz when Turbo CORE is enabled, and includes 16KB of L1 cache per core along with 64KB instruction cache per module, 1MB of L2 cache per core and 16MB of L3 cache per chip. Each processor also includes four x16 HyperTransport 3.0 links offering up to 6.4GT per second, in a TDP of 85W to 140W depending on model - consistent, the company points out, with the outgoing Opteron 6100 line.

The Interlagos architecture on which the new Opteron is based also brings two unique instructions, allowing those wiling to tweak their code to improve performance compared to Intel and AMD shared instruction sets: FMA4 provides improvements to vector and matrix multiplications, polynomial evaluations, and scientific computing tasks; XOP improves multimedia applications as used in audio and radio processing.

While AMD's performance claims - including a supposed 89 per cent price-to-performance boost over equivalent Intel chips - have yet to be independently proven, the company is already counting design wins: supercomputer expert Cray has announced that it will be upgrading the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's 'Jaguar' XT5 system to an Opteron 6200-based XK6 codenamed 'Titan' in short order.

For those without the budget for a Cray, server specialist Supermicro has announced that it will be offering the chips as part of its SuperBlade systems as a way of packing 3,840 x86 cores in a 42U rack, and Dell has its own system to offer.

The Opteron 6200 isn't the only chip the company has announced today, however: clearly cognisant of the increasing interest in low-power many-core systems such as those based on chips from Tilera, AMD has also launched the Opteron 4200 'Valencia'.

The key to Valencia's offering is power efficiency: while Intel's lowest-power Xeon chip has a TDP of 40W, the bottom-end Opteron 4200 is just 35W - rising to 95W at the top end. Core processing speed is the same as the Opteron 6200 line, with the 4200 dropping the per-chip L3 cache to 8MB and the maximum number of cores to eight.

With Intel also announcing a new chip family today - albeit one aimed at the enthusiast market, rather than the data centre - it remains to be seen if Interlagos and Valencia are what AMD needs to start clawing back market share from its bitter rival.