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AMD discusses Bobcat CPUs for the server market

by Pete Mason on 30 November 2010, 11:24


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There was a bit of a buzz earlier this year when AMD CTO Donald Newell - who had recently been poached from Intel - suggested that the company would be looking into using its low-power Bobcat CPUs in cloud servers.

Now the marketing director for the company's server business, John Fruehe, has chimed in on the subject as well. While Fruehe isn't exactly optimistic about the prospect, especially in the short term, he still sees it as an area to investigate in the future.

While they may not be much use for high-performance servers, cloud computers often require processors that can handle a large number of low-intensity tasks at once. It's also important that the CPUs can power-down during periods when there isn't any work to do. In this respect, a cluster of low-power Bobcat cores seems to make a lot of sense.

However, the problem, as Fruehe sees it, is that Bobcat cores have been optimised for the consumer market. While they may be low power, the CPUs just haven't been designed to include many of the server-centric features that would be critical to enterprise users.

"Although an extremely efficient core, [Bobcat] was designed for low power client solutions, so things like ECC memory and support for server OSs (through the AMD SR5600 series chipset) have not been figured into the product at this time," he noted.

Freuhe added that the processor is designed for a single-processor system, meaning that they "don't necessarily have the core density that cloud customers demand. This can impact the overall manageability of the solution".

He was also quick to point out that the company's high efficiency Opteron CPUs can already deliver power-draw as low 5-6W per core - exactly the same region as Bobcat's 4.5-9W-per-core TDP.

This isn't to say that Bobcat-based CPUs won't ever find a home in servers, though. With the cloud market still developing, AMD will be watching intently to determine which of its chips best suit the needs of customers. And as Freuhe says, if the market demands Bobcat cores, "we'll be ready".

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