Enterprise, Hardware

AMD brings server/workstation platform forward as well


Recently, we heard that AMD has recently cooled down its relationship with Broadcom and nVidia on the server/workstation chipset side. The reason for that is a certain Ferrari-owned racetrack.

2009 is a very important year for AMD in the server and workstation [commercial/enterprise] space. For the first time in corporate history, AMD will introduce its commercial platform. Unlike the previous and current server platforms that rely on chipsets from Broadcom and nVidia, AMD is going to introduce its own chipset for commercial/enterprise.

The codename of this platform is Fiorano, a racetrack inside Ferrari’s own HQ in Maranello, Italy. The reason why the racetrack is called Fiorano was Enzo Ferrari’s decision to "give something back" to the then neighboring village of Fiorano [15% of the track is located in Comune di Fiorano Modenese, e.g. city of Fiorano].

Fiorano is consisted out of AMD’s own SS7100 Southbridge and SR5690 or SP5100 Northbridges, depending on how many Sockets are present on the motherboard. You’ll notice that these chips are based upon existing desktop platforms, e.g. Spider and Dragon. SR5690 is actually a server chipset building on features implemented in 790FX and GX chips, bringing support for IOMMU – key feature for seamless virtualization [hardware virtualization support – virtual machines can isolate their own hardware], while SP5100 does not feature IOMMU. We expect that SP5100 will target workstations, while SR5690 will head to the server arena.

On the other side, SS7100 Southbridge shares similarities with SB750 Southbridge chip – SATA 3Gbps, USB 2.0, eSATA are all supported. As a native part of Fiorano platform, supported processors [Socket F, e.g. 1207] will work either on HyperTransport 1.1 or latest 3.0. In the case of Opterons, we suspect that AMD beefed up the HT base clock, expanding the available bandwidth beyond the desktop platforms and their Phenom II processors.

AMD is bringing these chipsets to the workstation space and in reality – it is a logical move. The chipsets already have integrated graphics, so the BoM for a server motherboard goes down – and there are enough PCI Express 2.0 lanes for a dual GPU + RAID + multiple GbE interfaces.
You can expect the debut of Fiorano platform ahead of Istanbul launch, e.g. in a few weeks. We expect to see a lot of motherboards during Computex Taipei 2009, to be held in the first week of June.