The race between Intel and Advanced Micro Devices to be first to market with dual-core processors is about to come to a close. AMD is expected to introduce its first dual-core Opteron processors an event in New York City scheduled for April 21, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.
The event will come in conjunction with the second anniversary of the 64-bit Opteron, which was unveiled on April 22, 2003. The first dual-core systems from server vendors are expected to be available around the time of AMD's launch, these sources say.
In the two years since Opteron's appearance, AMD has seized the technological lead from Intel in the server processor space. It was first to market with 64-bit processors based on Intel's x86 instruction set, and now it appears likely to beat Intel to market with chips that feature two processing engines, called cores.
Intel's Processor Plans
But Intel has not stood still. Last week, the Santa Clara, California, company completed its move to 64-bit Xeon processors and it has pledged to begin shipping its first dual-core chips, the Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition 840, by the end of June.
Both companies have gone to extra measures to "capture a perception of leadership in dual-core processors," says Kevin Krewell, editor-in-chief of Microprocessor Report in San Jose, California. Intel, for example, recently provided a number of computer magazines with review systems running its not-yet-launched Pentium processors.
"Why else would Intel have previewed the Pentium Extreme Edition with dual-core to select review sites and allow them to publish benchmarks well ahead of the availability of the part? It's unheard of."
AMD spokesperson David Schlosser declines to comment on what his company plans to announce at the April 21 event. "The anniversary event has become a tradition," he says. "It's an opportunity to celebrate the success of our AMD Opteron with our partners and our end-users."
In a note sent to members of the press, AMD claimed it would "have several significant announcements in conjunction with the event."
Like their single-core counterparts, the dual-core Opteron processors are expected to have a maximum power consumption of 95 watts. But what AMD has not disclosed is how much they have had to reduce the Opteron's clock speed in order to operate two processor cores with that power. AMD's current array of Opterons offers a maximum clock speed of 2.6 GHz.
To put two cores on its forthcoming Pentium processor, Intel has had to reduce the chip's maximum clock speed from 3.73 GHz to 3.2 GHz and increase the maximum amount of power used from 110 watts to 125 watts, Krewell says.
Krewell expects AMD's new chips to have a maximum clock speed of approximately 2 GHz. AMD has said that dual-core processors are designed to fit into existing single-core Opteron server designs.
AMD and Intel may be racing each other to be first with dual-core, but they are actually late to the game, according to Krewell. Sun Microsystems and IBM already ship servers based on their own dual-core processors.
Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Sun all ship systems based on the Opteron processor.