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Supercomputing 09 Sees AMD Leaping Ahead

As the dust begins to clear on the settlement between Advanced Micro Devices and arch rival Intel, AMD on Friday told a group of reporters that Magny-Cours, the next generation of its Opteron processors, is on track for delivery early next year. Unveiled in April, the platform will double the memory channels available to cores to four, and will accept DDR-3, a faster and more power-efficient memory technology than its predecessor DDR2.

Also announced at the annual Supercomputing 09 conference, taking place in Portland, OR, all this week, six-core Opteron processors are at the heart of the world's fastest supercomputing site--the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Jaguar Cray XT-5--a fact that AMD was proudly crowing today. It's according to the Top 500 Supercomputing Sites, a report released every June and November by the project. This month's report also had AMD in five of the top ten, and ten of the top 20 systems.

Despite the good showing, AMD itself admits its three-year-old platform is in need of an overhaul. "The processors in today's cluster list [are] based on a platform that goes back to 2006," said John Fruehe, director of business development at AMD's Server and Workstation Division, in the confidential briefing. "So we're definitely ready for a good platform refresh. And things coming in Q1 will put us in a good position for the upcoming list for next year."

On tap are 8- and 12-core versions of the 6100, and a revamped platform that Fruehe said delivers huge strides in high performance computing. "HPC systems are generally looking for large amounts of memory bandwidth, so four channels of DDR3 memory will give us a significant advantage in that area." The platform also will implement PCI Express v2, which supports a maximum transfer rate of 5 GT/s. Moving to the spec, Fruehe said, "will provide more throughput, [and] help AMD from a stream computing perspective."

But before you start filling out requisitions against next year's hardware budget, such performance gains come at a price; Magny-Cours Opteron architecture  will require new sockets and therefore all new hardware. "But the platforms that customers will move to will have the ability to support the Interlagos [16-core] processor and [will be able to] do that upgrade in 2011." Fruehe points out that the first-place Jaguar and third-place Kraken system at the University of Tennessee were both upgraded from four-core to six-core Opteron processors. "For both of these, all [they] had to do was upgrade the processors in the existing cabinets to get a massive performance increase."

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