SAN JOSE, Calif. Archrivals Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices are gearing up for the next round of battle in the lucrative server microprocessor market. Due to shifting strategies on both sides the battle between Intel's Nehalem-EX and AMD's Magny-Cours will be in some ways a tie.
Although the companies have yet to formally announce the 45nm CPUs, most of their details are well known. Intel said in early February it would launch Nehalem-EX in 90 days, and AMD first released details of Magny-Cours way back in May 2008.
Nehalem-EX is a dual-threaded eight-core processor with 24 Mbytes of L3 cache geared for use in systems with four or more CPUs. Magny-Cours is a single-threaded 12-core chip based on two six-core die in a package with a total 12 Mbytes L3 cache. Both pack four 64-bit DDR3 memory controllers.
"I don't expect either to have a knock-out punch in this round," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.).
Nehalem-EX supports four more threads than Magny-Cours, but the AMD chip has four more cores. Intel's multithreading typically delivers a performance boost of about 20-25 percent, likely less than AMD will get from having the additional cores, Brookwood said.
However, Intel's cores sport the superior design and its chip has twice the L3 cache which will deliver significant wallop on many applications.
As for costs, Magny-Cours' two die each measure about 350mm2 compared to a single die of about 500mm2 for Nehalem-EX. That gives Intel a significant advantage in raw silicon costs, although AMD may be able to get better yields.
Brookwood said he expects AMD to level to cost difference by pricing Magny-Cours as if it were a dual-processing chip, even though it can be used in systems with four or eight processors. Intel is expected to price Nehalem-EX at its typical premium for four-way chips, range from $500 to a whopping $3,000.
"AMD will take a cut on its profit margin, but if it can sell these chips for $700 it will be making lots of money," said Brookwood.