AMD Launches New Piledriver-Based Opteron 6300 Family

AMD's new Piledriver-based Opterons are launching today, completing a product refresh that the company began last spring with its Trinity APUs. The new 12 & 16-core Piledriver parts are debuting as the Opteron 6300 series. Originally, AMD had planned to add still more cores with this refresh and had anticipated a line of 10 and 20-core products. The company scrapped this plan last year, stating instead that Piledriver was enough of an improvement that they saw no need to widen existing parts still further.

Now that the next generation of Opteron CPUs is here, what can we expect? In SPECjbb2005, at least, significant performance gains.

This graph isn't as informative as we'd like; SPECpower_ssj2008 is a power efficiency metric, not a straight benchmark score. The other two data points are more enlightening, as they predict increases of 8% and 7% in integer and floating-point operations. The problem is, even this isn't an apples-and-oranges comparison. The 6278 is a 2.4GHz chip with a 3.3GHz Turbo; the 6380 is a 2.5GHz CPU with a 3.4GHz Turbo. AMD, in other words, is only hitting 7-8% performance differentials by increasing clock speed by 4%.

The impact these new chips will have on pricing is less clear. AMD's own presentation states that "AMD Opteron 6300 Series Pricing will be approximately 10% higher than AMD's Opteron 6200 Series." Compare the company's listed price for the already-released Opteron 6276 against the Opteron 6376, however, and there's a small improvement. The 6276 is currently $849 at Newegg, with a clock speed of 2.3GHz. The 6376 is a 2.3GHz part with a higher Turbo frequency and a 1KU price of $703.

Here's the full set of product SKUs and launch prices:

The power consumption improvements are more noteworthy than clockspeed gains. AMD's fastest 115W Bulldozer/Interlagos part was the 6278, a chip with a 2.4GHz base speed and a 3.3GHz Turbo. AMD has since split its Turbo range into "Max" and "Max All Cores." The 6380 hits an "All Core" Turbo speed of 2.8GHz, which is a bit faster than the Interlagos chip when CPU speeds are averaged for each core. Keeping power consumption to 115W is a definite gain -- but it's not going to single-handedly reinvent AMD's server business.

AMD has begun putting more effort into the software side of the equation across its products, as evidenced by the company's recent partnerships with game developers and updated iterations of server and programming tools.

What does this ultimately mean for AMD's larger server business? That's unclear. The price increase actually hurts the value of the new chips; a 7-8% performance boost combined with a 10% cost adder doesn't exactly work out to a net positive. Power consumption may trend slightly lower, but not enough to give AMD a lot of wiggle room on price factors.

Currently, it's estimated that AMD only has 4-5% of the server market. The Opteron 6300 series advances the company's standing, but may not shift that figure very much.