Right System, Wrong Reason

The Inquirer has an article suggesting that Dell is not an Intel happy camper to Intel employees said.

The interesting part of the article are claims by an anonymous Dell Guy to the effect that x86-64 Intel processors just aren’t very good compared to Opterons.

The Dell Guy seems to think that this is an attempt by Intel is leave Xeons less than they could be in order to protect Itanium sales.

I’m not so sure about that. It seems mostly like Intel was caught flat-footed, again, and is just scrambling to put up something to hold the fort for a little while. The only item where it’s more likely than not that Intel didn’t want to make the Xeon too good is in the memory (both in amount and mode) restrictions.

Nonetheless, regardless of interior motives, AMD may have an easier time selling Opterons when it becomes a matter of competing against something rather than vapor.

Indeed, once that happens, AMD’s revised aspirations of capturing 10% of this market niche may be a bit pessimistic

(Please note, though, AMDroids, that AMD is aspiring for 10% of the server market by the end of the year. Opterons have hardly conquered the world.)

The Opteron infrastructure has a number of decided advantages over the Xeon infrastructure: higher FSBs, how much and in what way memory is addressed, integrated memory controller, hypertransport between the CPUs. The first can be quickly addressed by Intel, the second can be addressed in a while, the others can’t.

It’s really the non-64-bit features that make Opteron formidable against Xeon, especially in multi-processor systems.

Even in 64-bit-dom, the issue isn’t how much memory each can address. Outside of supercomputers, that’s irrelevant. It’s how the two address memory above 4Gb that really matters. Intel is using a kludgy, performance-hurting, form of protected mode, while AMD doesn’t. That’s the critical difference, not total memory addressing.

Conversely, outside of the integrated memory controller, these advantages don’t apply to the desktop, where most of the Opteron advantages have either been already met by Intel or are not applicable.

It’s unclear whether or not a lot of people in the market for servers realize that, or even if they’ll ever realize that. Many may well hear the buzzwords, connect them with benchmarks showing Opteron systems better, and assume that they’re better because of the buzzwords.

But I guess AMD won’t mind if people buy their systems for the wrong reasons. 🙂


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