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AMD launches its Epyc server chip to take on Intel in the data center

Marc Ferranti | June 21, 2017
Epyc is a multimodule SoC based on the 'Zen' architecture of its Ryzen Threadripper PC processor, offering a whopping 32 cores

It's not just the folks at AMD who hope that that the company's Epyc server processor, officially launched Tuesday, will break Intel's stranglehold on the data-center chip market.

Enterprise users, web hosting companies and hyperscale cloud providers all want competition and choice in server chips to curb costs and fuel innovation.

"OEMs have been looking for an alternative to Intel for a long time, and with Intel having 98 percent market share I can say that there's absolutely a need, from the OEM point of view and the channel point of view," said Patrick Moorhead, principal at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Judging from specs, performance benchmarks and memory features as well as the supporting voices from software and hardware makers in the data center ecosystem, Epyc has the best shot of any chip to hit the market in years at putting a crack in Intel's dominance.

"For AMD to penetrate the market, win hearts and minds, to create value that customers are willing to pay for, we have to be disruptive," said Dan Bounds, senior director of data center products and enterprise solutions at AMD. "To come in and have a product that looks and smells like the competition really isn't useful."

Though AMD has been teasing Epyc's features for some time, and leaks of spec sheets have been circulating this past week, Tuesday's launch is the first official public unveiling of details for the whole product stack.

The bottom rung features the Epyc 7251, which offers eight cores supporting 16 simultaneous threads, and a base frequency of 2.1GHz that tops out at 2.9GHz at maximum boost. The top of the line Epyc 7601 has a whopping 32 cores, 64 threads and a base frequency of 2.2GHz, with maximum boost at 3.2GHz. Intel's Xeon chips, meanwhile, have up to 24 cores.

epyc range

AMD's Epyc processor family ranges from eight cores to 32 cores.

As more and more data moves to the cloud, data center servers are put increasingly under stress. Adding cores to processors will help servers react quickly, for example, to search requests as well as recognize images and process video faster.

But the Epyc story doesn't stop at the number of cores the processor offers. All the processors, up and down the product range, offer eight memory channels supporting up to 2666MHz DDR4 DRAM, 2TB of memory and 128 PCIe lanes. TDP (thermal design power), the maximum amount of heat expected to be generated by a chip, ranges from 120W at the low end of the range up to 180W for the monster 32-core model.

To top it off, all of this is offered in a single-socket chip, which can be paired with another Epyc chip in a two-socket system.


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