If I was a flower growing wild and free
All I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee.
And if I was a tree growing tall and green
All I'd want is you to shade me and be my leaves.
-- From All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar
Advanced Micro Devices
The new Opteron EE product line -- EE stands for "Extremely Efficient" -- caters to tightly packed data center environments where low power draws matter more than straight-up high performance. The EE series will run as fast as a standard Opteron chip, but within a 40-watt power envelope. The previously most efficient Opteron would draw up to 55 watts of power while doing the same work, and a standard model needs up to 75 watts.
These hefty processor-level improvements translate to about 13% lower power for a whole, power-optimized system. That makes the product very attractive to cloud computing shops and other dense environments. Sometimes, more processors per square foot of data center and per megawatt-hour of electric power feeds yield better returns on investment than higher performers with heavy power needs.
The EE won't beat Nehalem in most head-to-head benchmarks, but as you can see, that's not the point. Give Intel the single-processor absolute performance crown for a while -- and focus on taking market share in the massive-multiprocessor arena. I expect to see blade servers built around these chips by Hewlett Packard
Perhaps the best feature of the Opteron EE is that it should be a full-featured drop-in replacement for any other Opteron chip. These puppies are sorted out from the rest as part of the manufacturing and testing process -- some chips can run at higher clock speeds, while others draw less power at a certain speed. This lineup is the byproduct of high-quality manufacturing.
No word on the street price yet, but the not-quite-as-impressive Opteron HE product line sells for nearly twice the price of a non-HE chip at the same speed. I'd call this a high-margin return on a relatively low-cost investment, and there's a clearly defined market for these low-power chips.
If I were an IT director with densely packed server racks, I'd want a few of these beauties -- even if I were also buying Nehalem servers for my high-performance needs. AMD is back in the data center game for real. Now, let's see if it can parlay that into stronger margins and actual profits. Stranger things have happened.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in AMD, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.