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NEW YORK -- Customers will demand higher performance 64-bit computing, which until now has been reserved only for buyers of costly proprietary architectures, said AMD President and CEO Hector Ruiz Tuesday.
Speaking here at AMD's launch event for the new Opteron 64-bit processor, the 57-year-old chief executive said customers are demanding greater performance because more powerful applications are driving demand for 64-bit computing.
"It is time for all of us in the technology industry to change our ways," said Ruiz, who was joined by AMD Founder and Chairman Jerry Sanders and even NBC Sports personality Bob Costas along with media and analysts at the launch. "New technologies should not introduce new barriers, it should knock them down."
AMD called Opteron the world's first 64-bit processor compatible with Intel's industry-standard x86 architecture, and with the highest performing 2-way and 4-way processor for servers.
Opteron is made up of 100 million transistors built on 130 nanometer technology, Sanders explained. "It's smaller than your smallest fingernail. The 64-bit Opteron is a technological tour de force," the founder said.
The launch marks the first time the company has focused its guns on a market other than the personal computers. And it doesn't come without a price. The Sunnyvale, Calif. chipmaker has weathered through several delays in its four-year mission to get the processor out the door.
But Opteron also comes at a time when recession-weary IT buyers are tossing aside their costly RISC/Unix-based architectures in favor of the economical and scalable CISC, or x86, solutions that were long championed by AMD's chief rival, Intel. And with Microsoft's next-generation Windows Server 2003 slated for the launching pad later this week, IT buyers will have even lower entry points in order to take advantage of computing performance that was once reserved only for mainframes.
AMD has initially introduced three models -- the 240, 242 and 244 -- scalable up to 2-way servers. AMD also will introduce an 800 series for up to 8-way servers later in this quarter and expects a 100 series for 1-way servers by the fall. Prices for the 200 series of the AMD Opteron processor start at $283 each in lots of 1,000.
AMD is hoping the Opteron's lower cost-of-entry will attact users who want to run compute- or memory-intensive applications like enterprise resource planning or database management solutions but can't afford to scrap their existing x86 infrastructure, which is predominantly based on 32-bit computing.
In this sense, AMD has come up with the unique value proposition of being compatible with 32-bit legacy systems while still offering the capabilities of 64-bit processing. In other words, companies that want to upgrade no longer need to put software engineers and developers through timely and costly integration projects.
In order to capitalize on that, though, AMD on Tuesday also formalized its 64-bit computing platform under the "AMD64" brand with the ultimate goal of building as strong of an ecosystem as the one that surrounds the so-called WinTel ecosystem. The AMD64 platform will include the Athlon workstation processor that is set for release later in the fall.
As such, Ruiz rolled out software partner after partner like SuSE, Redhat, Oracle 9i, Computer Associates, IBM db2 and even Microsoft SQL Server.
"These are the weeks you live for," said Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows division, referring to the Redmond, Wash., company's own Windows Server 2003 launch event on Thursday. But while Microsoft repeated its commitment to 64-bit computing, he added the beta version of Windows Server 2003 won't be immediately available this week but will be by mid-2003.
Other hardware partners included guests such as Mark Shearer, VP of eServer Systems at IBM, which will delivery an Opteron-based server platform and pledged to use the technology in its super-computing on-demand community. Also, Fujitsu-Siemens announced it plans to offer a high-end line of graphic workstations based on Opteron.