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Why Dell now does Opteron

Comment When the dithering stopped
Tue May 30 2006, 12:41
EARLIER IN THE year, AMD had already got its foot partially in Dell's door when the Texas-based company acquired Alienware, which was already selling Opteron and Athlon 64 based systems.

The direct-seller admitted in the ame Q1 FY'07 financial statement in which it also announced the Opteron decision: "The competitive environment has been more intense than we had planned for or understood," said Kevin Rollins, Dell's chief executive officer.

Could that have had anything to do with the rapid growth of Opteron in the enterprise? If so, like Intel, Dell was seriously caught with its pants down.

Someone must have extrapolated what would happen if Dell remained an Intel only shop and AMD continued its rapid growth in the enterprise. It would have been a simple graph - one line going up and the other going down.

Intel's shareholders have already made their feelings known about the chip giant's poor performance record. Dell doesn't want to end up where Intel currently is, so hence its Opteron announcement. But Dell won't be offering one-way and two-way Opteron based systems. So why such a limited embrace?

It's been evident for a long time that four-way Opteron systems reign supreme over their Xeon-based counterparts. Dell's decision would imply that Intel won't be able to deliver a competitive solution until close to the end of the decade.

But what about Dell's customer base? Surely they were demanding one and two-way systems, which are the volume movers. Those who were expecting and demanding such won't be happy bunnies.

Of course, with the growing demand for AMD Opteron based systems, Dell's Opteron decision may have come too late in the day for the chip maker to meet its demand. That could mean one and two-way systems could be offered down the road. Conversely, Dell may have unshakable confidence that Intel will deliver this time round with its one and two-way chip offerings.

Dell's marketing of its Opteron based product will be of interest when it's launched. But will it be as lame as Supermicro? It's still not possible to navigate from Supermicro's home page to its Opteron based products. It's one thing to offer something. It's another to promote it. So Dells' product positioning and the language used to differentiate its Xeon and Opteron based product will make for interesting reading.

AMD has a lot of interesting technology coming down the road that will solidify an already firm AMD64 foundation. Quad core devices, shared level three cache, RAS enhancements and virtualization technology to name just a few.

Some of Intel's future technologies are similar to AMD's. But there is a significant difference when past performance is looked at. Where AMD has delivered on its technological road map Intel has faltered. So one would expect AMD to not only deliver these technologies but to implement them better as well. A good example of better implementation in relation to overall design is processor cache. AMD hasn't made any processor cache increases to its single core devices since the launch of the Opteron processor some three years ago. The same can't be said of Intel's Xeon counterpart. That's indicative of how good the AMD64 platform has been thus far.

It's not just AMD developing all this technology. Other companies and organizations are putting their oar in as well. The HyperTransport consortium continues to develop that interconnect technology unabated. DRC co-processor chips are now available. AMD64 compilers continue to be improved. I could go on, but our regular readers will already know that the AMD64 juggernaut won't be slowing down anytime soon for anyone.

Because AMD is only focused on those areas that really matter to its commercial success it can depend on third party players that are experts in their field to compete with each other and deliver. That drives innovation and competition, which means no one can afford to stand still. The AMD64 ecosystem has flourished over these past three years. Dell will reap that harvest.

Intel has discovered to its cost over these past three years that its minnow sized competitor AMD has been using its performance and technical clout to carve out some very lucrative deals.

It appears that AMD now has a new code name - Bulldozer. AMD used ClawHammer and SledgeHammer code names for its client and server AMD64 chip introductions. There was no doubt that Intel got hammered by these and later devices. AMD has been pulverizing Intel since the launch of AMD64. Could Bulldozer be the quad core device that pushes Intel into the sea? I don't think AMD would use such a name unless it is something very special indeed. I'm sure Dell will be eyeballing this space very closely.

Drop me a line if you feel let down because Dell's Opteron choice will be limited. If Dell still isn't listening to its customer base a litany of complaints could force the vendor's hand.

You have to wonder how long it will be before Apple signs along Dell's dotted line. With Dell's Opteron announcement, Apple may feel left out in the cold. It may feel compelled to get onboard the Opteron train as well. It may also wish to distance itself from the following statement.

At Apple's worldwide developers conference in June last year, Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed a slide that said: The world's most innovative computer company and the world's most innovative chip company finally team up. If Intel is the most innovative chip company in the world why would Dell, its most important customer, choose to buy Alienware and then announce that it would be offering Opteron based product. An interesting question indeed.

One thing is for sure, AMD and its partners have certainly turned the IT market upside down. µ

See Also:
AMD's Opteron spreads its enterprise wings
AMD "on course" for 20 percent of server market
Intel gets rocket from shareholders
Dell buys Alienware - officially
AMD shows off details of K8L
DRC Opteron accelerator now quickens Crays
Supermicro goes overboard on AMD Opteron
AMD's word of the day is...
Apple and AMD: A match not meant to be

Dell's Q1 FY'07 statement


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