Intel and AMD chase the upgrade cycle

Andy Moon reports on Intel's new Xeon 5600 chip line and AMD's new processor strategy. Find out how the companies are chasing the upgrade cycle in different ways.

Intel announced its new line of microprocessors on Tuesday, making claims of a five month return on investment and a 15:1 consolidation estimate. The new Xeon 5600 chip line is truly impressive and, according to the company's analysis, a third of the servers currently in use are running processors made four or more years ago.

AMD is chasing the same upgrade cycle, but it's going after it in a slightly different way than Intel. AMD's upcoming strategy will be to change the dynamic somewhat by making more processors available by bringing down the price of four-processor servers. AMD's bet is that it can get better performance per watt by increasing the number of processors in each server. If AMD is able to reduce the price jump between two- and four-processor servers, it may be able to increase the number of four-processor servers out there over the 5% where it is now.

Both companies are also adding features to their chips; Intel has added features that improve performance when dealing with encrypted files, and AMD is engineering a line that includes graphics processing for laptop and netbook markets.

AMD is hovering at about 9% of server chip sales and has hovered around 30% market share overall for the past few years; if AMD is ever going to seriously challenge Intel, it must find a way to tip the scales in its favor.

The last time I bought servers, I was very surprised at the big price and size difference between two- and four-processor machines; I remember the difference being substantial enough that a four-processor machine wasn't even under serious consideration. If AMD can cram more processing power in a rack than Intel, its similar performance per watt numbers would give the company an edge it could use.

I have long been processor agnostic; the very first 486 I ever owned was AMD, and I would definitely consider AMD if I could get more processing into my data center or reduce the number of racks necessary to do the job.

Weigh in on whether you think AMD's new strategy will pay off.

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