Cloud Computing, Enterprise, Hardware

AMD [finally] launches own server platform: Meet Fiorano, Kroner


AMD finally launched its own SR5600 series of chipsets, formerly known under codename Fiorano. What makes this launch probably as the most important one for AMD to date was the fact that this is the first server/workstation chipset for AMD. Given that AMD openly told us that they’re gunning for servers only and they don’t have the guts to challenge Intel on Workstation field, we’ll consider this as server chipset alone.

Fiorano platform is consisted out of AMD SR5670 and SR5690 Northbridge and SP5100 Southbridge chips with built-in support for AMD Vi, hardware virtualization acceleration [IOMMU – Virtualization I/O]. Northbridge comes with no less than 42 PCIe lanes and 11 controllers [you’ve guessed it right, 790FX was the base for this chip], while Southbridge comes with all the standard features expected from a server chipset. The interesting bit is that AMD connected ATI ES-1000 GPU to Southbridge rather than Northbridge, using a PCIe x4 connection. Then again, for servers you really don’t need more.

Fiorano SNAFU - RDDR-3 support doesn't come with either Istanbul nor Shanghai, rather in 2010
AMD Diagram SNAFU – RDDR-3 support doesn’t come with either Istanbul nor Shanghai, rather in 2010

Dual Socket [2S] platform comes with one SR5600 series chip offering afore mentioned 42 PCIe lanes, while Quad Socket [4S] comes with either one or two SR5600 chipsets, offering up to 84 PCIe Gen2 lanes. At launch, AMD is offering this platform with faithful Socket 1207, supporting dual-core Santa Rosa, quad-core Barcelona & Shanghai and sexa-core Istanbul processors.

Additionally to SR5690, AMD is also introducing lower-tiered Northbridge chips: SR5670 and SR5650. You can probably see the similarities between chipsets and ATI Radeon naming convention – xx90 is the fully featured chip, with xx70 and xx50 losing features to get the price or the power envelope lower.

As you can see in the picture above, AMD made one mistake – Socket F platform does not support RDDR-3. In early 2010, AMD will introduce two new RDDR3-supporting sockets for their server platform, Socket C32 and G34. As expected, Socket C32 will succeed current Socket F [1207] for the regular server, while Socket G34 will introduce dual die [MCM, Multi-Chip Module] design with two four- [San Paulo] or six-core processors [Magny-Cours]. In a way, the platform AMD is launching today is nothing more than four to six months time to optimize the chipset inside the OEM systems and motherboards to be ready for C32/G34 rollout.

Beside the layout typo, we do feel that AMD made two significant "FAIL" in this launch, with first one being partner [and user] friendliness. The official name for what was known as the Fiorano platform is "Six Core AMD Opteron processor with AMD Chipset platform" – think of it what you may, but we feel that Opteron PR and marketing division should get a lesson from ATI folk on naming conventions. AMD’s "Six Core AMD Opteron processor with AMD Chipset platform" versus Intel’s "Nehalem-EP" and "Nehalem-EX" platforms just doesn’t cut it. Instead, AMD partners are simply continuing to use "Fiorano", "Maranello" and so on. Then again, codenames in relation to Ferrari locations and Formula One racetracks just sound much better than Texan-crew could ever come up with, as a dire consequence of key AMD personnel departing AMD in the past three years [including ones that came up with Ferrari/F1 codenames].

Beside "Six Core AMD Opteron processor with AMD Chipset platform" [ex-Fiorano], AMD also launched Kroner server specification. In a nutshell, AMD Kroner is a new motherboard design that enables OEMs to put two dual-socket servers into a single 1U or 2U chassis, i.e. even four dual-socket servers into a 3U and 4U chassis. This is AMD’s own blade-like design, with partners such as SuperMicro, Tyan designing their motherboards and systems around it.

If you’re wondering where are the major announcements coming from HP, Dell or at least IBM, world leader in blade designs – don’t hold your breath, or you might turn Intel-blue. According to information at hand, today’s launch is nothing more but a paper launch – yes, the second SNAFU. The company "launched" this platform today to stop Intel’s stream of announcements coming out of this weeks’ Intel Developer Forum 2009, held in San Francisco, CA. Our sources at Supermicro dictate that their motherboards and 1U72U designs will come in Q4, while Tyan will launch in November.