SERVER VENDORS HP and Dell have signalled that chip vendors should stop playing the socket-swap game with customers looking for drop-in processor upgrades.
During AMD's Interlagos Opteron launch both HP and Dell said one of the biggest selling points of AMD's 8-core 4200 series and 16-core 6200 series processors is the fact that they are drop in upgrades. With AMD keeping the socket and TDP identical to Lisbon and Magny Cours processors, both firms said that they expect customers to buy upgrades rather than new kit.
Iain Stephen, VP of HP's Enterprise Storage, Server and Networking in the UK and Ireland said that ease of transition is the biggest selling point of AMD's Interlagos Opteron processors. When pushed to provide an example of how much of a change the firm views the processor, Stephen said, "We won't increment the G in Proliant model numbers", referring to the generation number present on the firm's Proliant range of servers. Stephen suggested that only BIOS upgrades would be required to support AMD's latest Opteron Bulldozer chips.
Dell, despite being a fierce rival of HP was singing from the same hymn sheet, with Bryan Jones, executive director of European and Global Data Center Marketing at Dell saying, "customers are looking to extend the life of their investments". Jones was even more blunt, saying, "Our customers can't afford to rip and replace."
The comments from Stephen and Jones come just days after slides were leaked showing Intel's upcoming Haswell architecture, which will require yet another socket. Going back to the present, Intel's latest Sandy Bridge E chips, which Intel will also introduce as 8-core Xeon processors in the near future, also feature yet another socket.
Some commentators argue that AMD is hamstringing itself by sticking to its sockets for long periods of time. However both HP and Dell admitted the days of just flogging more and more kit to customers is coming to an end, with consumers and businesses looking to make their infrastructures run as long as possible.
AMD is not talking about any future socket changes today and is unlikely to do so for some time if it wants to keep its most valuable OEMs happy. If AMD can secure enough big customers with this strategy, it might force Intel to reconsider its socket-swap strategy. µ