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AMD’s Athlon MP Line Makes Bid For Enterprise Market

Advanced Micro Devices Corp. has gained attention from computer enthusiasts for its Athlon line of processors, but despite their low cost, few enterprises and OEMs have used them in servers, since they did not support multiprocessing. However, AMD released two new processors and a chipset Tuesday to offer an alternative for two-way computing.

“This basically starts the attack on the enterprise market,” says Bob Mitton director of servers and workstations at AMD. Now that AMD can offer two-way processing, it can make a credible play for the commodity server market.

Released in 1.2GHz and 1.0GHz models, the Athlon MP is specially designed for two-way environments – other Athlon models cannot be used. Mitton says that additional functions had to be built into the chip. “It has to understand that it runs with another processor,” he explains.

AMD also released a chipset to support the Athlon MP line, the 760 MP chipset. Although the chipset is based on AMD’s uniprocessor 760 chipset, the memory and processor controller has features to aid multiprocessing. For example, the controller can read what data is on the processor cache, and copy the data to the other processor. Tyan Computer Corp. has shipped the first Athlon MP motherboard using the 760 MP chipset.

The new chipset supports another feature critical to enterprise customers, Error Correcting Code (ECC) memory. “You want to catch and correct as many errors as possible,” Mitton says, “ECC is a requirement for the enterprise.”

Mitton says AMD will target the appliance and scalable server market with the MP line.  He believes that AMD can make its biggest impact with these customers who consider both price and performance when making purchase decisions.

AMD expect to extend its multiprocessing to four- and eight-way systems with the release of its 64-bit “Hammer” architecture. Mitton does not believe demand will exist for some time for 32-bit AMD chips in these configurations.

Due to testing and qualification concerns, none of the major OEMs are shipping Athlon MP systems today. One Linux-focused vendor, Rauch Median Inc. offered two-way Athlon systems on its website at the time of release.  –Christopher McConnell

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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