The new version of Intel’s Xeon line of chips represents the company’s most significant step to close a performance gap that competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD). Intel announced that the processor named Woodcrest is more than twice as fast as earlier models and consumes 40% less power.
“I think this will stand the test of time as a marvel,” said Patrick Gelsinger, an Intel senior vice president and general manager of the company’s digital-enterprise group, quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
Intel is planning to promote Woodcrest through a series of newspaper ads claiming that a server equiped with Woodcrest is as much as 60% faster than comparable machine that use Opteron from AMD. In computing performance per watt, Intel says it now has an 80% advantage.
AMD however said Intel’s numbers are based on selective speed tests that don’t reflect Opteron’s main advantage – fetching data from memory – or what many customers will see on real-world tasks.
“They are comparing apples to oranges, and lemons to limes,” said AMD’s director of server and workstation marketing.
AMD however conceded that Woodcrest makes Intel more competitive in servers.
AMD in the first quarter accounted for 15% of world-wide sales of all servers that use the popular x86 chip design, according to Gartner Inc. But the company, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is much stronger in some niches. In high-end models — known as “four-way” servers because they use at least four chips — AMD accounted for 48% of the U.S. market, the research firm estimates.
Rackable Systems Inc. illustrates the crosscurrents. The company was using Xeons almost exclusively 2 years ago. Now more 90% of the servers are based on AMD Opteron, in response to customer requests.
The company that made some test of the new Interl server technology reported impressive results in tests of the Woodcrest chip. Some systems based on new Intel’s processor draw just 185 watts, compared with 350 watts for the earlier Xeon system.
Yet just how many customers will prefer Woodcrest say Rackable Systems executives. “For one thing, Opteron still has technical advantages for some jobs” they say.
“There are going to be some situations where Woodcrest is better and some where it is not,” said Mr. Barton, the company’s executive.