AMD on Tuesday will show off a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant server with four dual-core Opteron chips at a facility in Austen, Texas, bringing the functional number of chips in four-processor servers to eight.
"When you load Microsoft (Server 2003), it shows up as eight processors," said Marty Seyer, vice president and general manager of the microprocessor business unit at AMD.
The chip "taped out"--semiconductor shop talk meaning that the design was completed--in June, and AMD recently produced the samples that will be displayed in Austin, Seyer added.
The news comes a week before the Intel Developer Forum, where Intel is expected to discuss dual-core Itanium, Xeon and Pentium chips for servers and desktops, and demonstrate at least one of these chips at the event.
Right now, it is difficult to determine which company is ahead in coming out with dual-core chips, which increase performance while conserving energy. Intel has said it will come out with a dual-core Itanium toward the middle of next year and desktop parts in the second half, roughly the same schedule AMD proposes. Both companies have also had to delay projects recently, so today's deadlines are likely fluid.
Intel unfurled its proposed delivery dates for dual-core desktop chips in May, but AMD countered that it had been preparing to go dual-core for some time. (IBM already sells dual-core chips.) Partisans and companies on both sides of the issue will likely debate the issue furiously during the next year.
Still, demonstrating dual-core chips at this early stage underscores the improved engineering and design capabilities of AMD. Although AMD has largely lagged Intel in their 31-year-plus rivalry, the smaller company has bested Intel with a number of design innovations in the past two years.
Opteron was the first chip based on the x86 architecture--which is behind most of the desktop and server chips on the market today--to run 32-bit and 64-bit software. Intel disdained the idea but then abruptly announced its own 32/64-bit chips earlier this year.
With Opteron, AMD also ushered in a high-speed link between chips, called HyperTransport, which has been adopted by many other manufacturers. HyperTransport, now called Direct Connect, connects the different chips to a server to each other and to peripheral devices such as graphics cards.
The technology will also be used to connect the two processors sandwiched together on the same processor, Seyer said.