AMDís Opteron processor is being poised to break all the rules of high-end computing. 64-bit architectures arenít entirely new Sun, HP, and Intel have all been in the game longer than AMD. What separates AMDís Opteron from previous efforts are two critical points: full compatibility with existing 32-bit software and price.
Since this is an article geared towards the nForce3 Pro, we wonít get into too many of the specifics of the Opteron. For that analysis, please refer to our article on the technology behind Opteron
. But the price factor in particular could be one of the keys to Opteronís success. Before Opteron, 64-bit CPUs cost thousands of dollars alone. In contrast, dual processor Opteron 200 series systems should start at approximately $3,000.
As a result of this, 64-bit computing has traditionally been priced entirely out of the range of the workstation market, much less consumers. Opteron and later, Athlon 64, will bring 64-bit to entirely new markets, which will also give AMD a unique edge in these segments, areas where AMD has historically had difficulty penetrating with the success it has had on the consumer desktop. One of these spaces is the workstation segment. Athlon MP has had some design wins here, and as Alan discovered in his Quadro FX workstation article
, AMD has a compelling alternative to Intelís Xeon family.
Having a blazing CPU means nothing without the proper parts around it however. Weíve seen plenty of platforms brought down by core logic over the years: the Pentium III with 820, AMDís Athlon with VIA KT266, and most recently the Pentium 4 with 845 and SDRAM are just a few examples.
For Opteron, AMDís 8000 chipset is already pulling the load for servers, and while it can also be used in workstations, if NVIDIA has its way, thatís where nForce3 Professional comes in. Unlike AMD-8000, nForce3 Pro is geared solely for single processor workstations. NVIDIA has thrown in other goodies such as nForce3 Proís single chip design and Serial ATA/ATA-133 with RAID.