AMD slows new Opteron 6300 chips to match workloads

AMDs new Opteron 6300 processors have a slower clock speed to reduce power consumption

Vendors don't normally brag about slower products but Advanced Micro Devices is making an exception for its latest Opteron 6300 processors, which have a slower clock speed than their predecessors to reduce power consumption.

Some AMD customers use its chips in highly virtualized systems, and those types of servers tend to max out their memory and I/O bandwidth before they can make use of all the CPU performance, said Suresh Gopalakrishnan, general manager of AMDs server division.

That means they're using a higher-performance chip than they need, and burning more electricity. So AMD is introducing new versions that dial down the clock-speed and reduce the power draw by 15 to 30 percent.

"They're looking at the actual core utilization and seeing that only 60 to 70 percent of the core is being used because of memory and I/O limits, based on their workloads," Gopalakrishnan said. "That's prompted them to come to us and say, 'We're not really using all this performance so can you lower the power, so that the overall data center power consumption is lower.'"

The new chips are the Opteron 6370P, which has 16 cores and a base clock speed of 2.0GHz, and the 6338P, with 12 cores and a base clock speed of 2.3GHz (both can run faster in Turbo mode). They each have a "thermal design power" of 99 watts, which compares to between 115 and 140 watts for existing Opteron 6300s with the same numbers of cores, according to AMD's website. Those existing chips run at up to 2.8GHz, or faster in Turbo mode.

The new chips are based on AMD's Piledriver core and were originally known by the code name Warsaw.

The request initially came from financial services customers using AMD's Open 3.0 server platform, a reference design it developed as part of Facebook's Open Compute Project. Customers can take that design to a systems integrator or server maker and have it built for them.

An advantage of that, Gopalakrishnan said, is they can source servers from a variety of suppliers and know that the servers can always be managed in the same way, with the same tools, regardless of who supplies them.

AMD will be among the vendors showing their latest server designs at the Open Compute Project Summit next week in Silicon Valley.

The 6370P and 6338P are available now through Penguin and Avnet system integrators and qualified for use in servers from Sugon and Supermicro, priced from US$598 and $377, respectively, AMD said.

Gopalakrishnan expects server OEMs to offer the new chips as well, since they're selling systems for virtualization that have the same memory and I/O constraints.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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