SAN FRANCISCO – Advanced Micro Devices took the first small step toward making its Freedom Fabric an interconnect of choice for linking server processors. AMD’s SeaMicro group announced Intel- and AMD-based systems extending the link to up to 1,408 hard drives or five petabytes of external storage.
SeaMicro expects to continue selling both Intel and AMD systems for the foreseeable future. The group is courting big server makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard as partners for Freedom Fabric, but so far has no announced supporters.
The news comes the same day Intel announced it is designing a new interconnect it will pack into future Xeon and Atom server chips for linking server processors. The lack of a timeline from either AMD or Intel for packing their new technologies into server CPUs shows the interconnect battle will extend over the next several years
Freedom Fabric is essentially a follow on the HyperTransport interconnect used in the first AMD Opteron processors. “AMD has to show success with Freedom Fabric to attract other people to adopt it,” said Patrick Moorhead, principle of Moor Insights & Strategy (Austin).
AMD may have a slight lead because the SeaMicro systems will be available in November at prices starting at about $140,000, said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.). By contrast, it’s not clear when Intel will release products using its clustering interconnect.
One of the SM15000 servers uses an Opteron CPU supporting 64 GBytes DRAM.
SeaMicro has been careful to design its fabric in a way that’s agnostic to other architectures, but so far has no plans to use it with ARM-based server SoCs.
“I think an [ARM Cortex] A9 core cannot stack up and is not a very interesting part,” said Andrew Feldman, general manager of AMD’s SeaMicro group, referring to 32-bit ARM server CPUs from the likes of Calxeda and Marvell. “Looking forward the ARM community has a new [64-bit] part for 2014, and it could be interesting,” he said.
SeaMicro’s opportunity may be limited with the world’s biggest server buyers. Companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google are designing their own servers and racks. However, SeaMicro has gained some traction with large enterprise data centers interested in the significant power savings the systems offer.
Separately, SeaMicro said its new system, the SM15000, will support a new AMD Operton server chip that uses eight of its Piledriver cores and can link to up to 64 Mbytes of DRAM. Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge server CPUs can only access 32 Gbytes DRAM max.
The Opteron chips require use of relatively expensive 16 Gbyte DIMM modules, limiting their opportunity to a narrow high-performance market, said Brookwood. Mainstream servers use 8 Gbyte DIMMS today where the 32 Gbyte total DRAM limit is not a problem for most users, he added.
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