AMD [IBM] press release

Alan Scheinine scheinin at
Wed Nov 20 07:07:11 PST 2002

>From: Mark Hahn <hahn at>
To: Alan Scheinine <scheinin at>
Subject: Re: AMD press release
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 01:02:49 -0500 (EST)

   Judging by the remarks of Dr. Mark Hahn, I was not successful
in communicating my intended meaning when I asked about the future
of AMD 64-bit chips.
   I wrote:
  >  Computers tagged as "servers" often have high prices
  >  when sold as complete computers.
and Dr. Hahn replied:
  > it has nothing to do with "complete".  this category of hardware is 
  > quite different from PCs, not just in price, but in reliability
  > and design.

   This is one point in which we clearly have a difference of
opinion concerning the computer market in general.  During several
years of asking for price quotes, it has been my impression that a
high-performance "server" from Compaq or HP (when they were separate
companies) had a price that was about twice what I would need to pay
to get an equivalent computer assembled locally, at the same level
of performance and sometimes with the same motherboard.
   Dr. Hahn mentioned a 4-way Xeon, around $20k from Dell.  My
impression is that Dell has rather low prices, whereas, my intention
was to say that in general, including HP and IBM, PC labelled "server"
have relatively high prices.  With regard to Dell, we have some
commercial software that does not run efficiently on a cluster, so I
was wondering if a 4-CPU shared memory PC would be a cost-effective
choice for the group that ran this commercial software.  The Dell
Poweredge 6600 has a cost of $10,288 for a two-processor version with
a 2-GHz Xeon CPU, one GigaByte of memory, and one 18 GB Ultra 160
SCSI harddisk.  But wouldn't I be able to get a two-processor PC with
this level of performance for about half the price?  (Perhaps even
with two-way interleaved memory.)  The price of a Dell Poweredge 6600
with four (4) processors (2-GHz Xeon) and 2 GigaBytes of memory
is $25,886.  My impression is that I could assemble a similar computer
for half the price.
   My impression is that the price of a Dell server is at the low end
of the Xeon-based servers from various companies.

   Overall, the question that I intended to put forward in my previous
email message was primarily based on the Itanium / Hammer level of CPU
performance.  It was my impression that by this date Itanium was supposed
to arrive at the desktop.  In fact it has, since one group here has
a slick-looking Itanium workstation on loan from HP.  But at what cost?

   I found the URL to the IBM announcement.
Nov. 15, IBM today announced an ultra dense UNIX server targeted
at the High Performance Computing market.  In my previous message
I wrote:
  > I looked at the article and saw in the footnotes that 78,000 dollars
  > was for four CPUs (plus memory, disk).
and Dr. Hahn replied
  > not very surprising, considering their speed.
(Actually, the cost is 73,000.)

   My point, though not stated clearly, was the price of the Itanium 2.
The article from Supercomputingonline gave me the impression that
Itanium 2 was equivalent in price and performance.  Though I do not
have the URL, I remember reading a month ago that AMD said that their
first 64-bit CPUs would be for the server market.  Comments concerning
that announcement were that nobody knows what that means, so I asked
the Beowulf group if they knew with the AMD CPUs would have a price
and availability similar to Itanium 2 initially, for example, in the
first half of 2003.  Would AMD be thinking, if Intel can sell their
Itanium 2 at the stratospheric price of a Power4, maybe we should try
starting at that price level? (???)  

   I wrote:
  > Tyan and most of the motherboards on the Supermicro WWW pages.  But on
  > those pages I do not see any Itanium 2 mother boards.  For low-cost
and Dr. Hahn replied:
  > of course: only HP and Intel make It2 boards.

   I regret that my intended meaning was not clear.  If Intel at 64-bit
is not competing at the level of having mother boards from various
manufactures, why would the situation be different for AMD?  (Despite
the announcements.)

   Dr. Hahn has put forward several ideas in the regard.  If I am
correctly extrapolating from what was written, the idea is that
despite the lack of competition from Intel, AMD needs the Hammer because
the Athlon is not competitive.  An with regard to availability, he
 > the opteron has very little in it that's new or challenging.
 > it's a little bigger than the thoroughbred, but not nearly as
 > large as a xeon.

I wrote
 > Opteron motherboards sold like Pentium mother boards would
and Dr. Hahn replied
 > they will be, of course, according to the announcements of chipset
 > and motherboard vendors.
and he said the price would be more like a four-way Xeon rather than
a four-way Itanium.

   This is very useful information.  I have the impression that there
is substantial uncertainty with regard to the timing of the availability
of the AMD processors and motherboards.  Would anyone else on the
beowulf mailing list have similar information about how concrete
are the announcements?

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