What the Chip War Means for Your Data Center

Should you standardize on AMD or Intel? It depends, say our experts.

Fri, June 01, 2007

CIO — As the competition intensifies between AMD and Intel, five server experts weigh in on whether one company's servers should dominate the data center. There's no easy answer. Here's what they say you should think about:

Shane Rau
Program manager, PC Semiconductors

A market research company (sister to CIO.com's publisher)

The debate, to a point, is moot. There should be choices in the market; in any market where there is only one dominant supplier, there is a vacuum.

But the question is relevant when you consider that server processors have higher requirements than desktop PC and mobile PC processors. These requirements include performance, reliability and data integrity. After Opteron entered the market, AMD gained some market share, probably 10 to 15 percent, just by being there. But it's clear that the market granted AMD additional share based on the virtues of their product. Today's server market demands competitive performance, power consumption, heat dissipation, price and software compatibility.

AMD has had success in the high-performance computing segment, especially since HP's adoption of Opteron for servers devoted to scientific and technical applications. AMD has also become credible in the view of server OEMs, because of reliability features, their long-term technology road map, support in Microsoft operating systems and their established infrastructure. AMD has built products according to customer requirements and has then made sure that OEMs agree about these requirements. CIOs are responding by putting AMD on their RFQs to OEMs and are looking into buying more than just Opteron servers. They are also looking into Athlon-based desktops and Turion-based mobile PCs for their corporate environments.

Intel has a broader product line, with Xeon, Itanium and 64-bit chips. The only segment for which AMD doesn't have a product is the segment for processors used in ultraportable notebooks.

What you choose depends on the performance needs of your corporation. I think the validity of both product lines is testified to by the fact that most major OEMs have chips from both manufacturers in their offerings. Dell adopted Opteron for two- and four-processor servers and clients; Dell was prompted to support Opteron by pressure from its customers, competitive pressure from other system vendors like HP and certainly a conclusion that it would be profitable.

Todd Abrams
President and COO
Layered Technologies

Provider of on-demand utility computing services

The main difference between Intel and AMD is cost. Intel tends to be higher priced than AMD processors, yet the quality that separates the two is pretty equal. Right now, the only advantage I still see for Intel is maturity over the AMD products. The race for performance between the two will always be neck and neck and should not be the only consideration when purchasing hardware. One quarter Intel is on top, and next it will be AMD.

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