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Wintel allegiance no longer ironclad

More Windows shops are changing their old ways and switching from Intel to Opteron. A recent study reveals a waning Wintel alliance, even as the quest for chip dominance continues.

Intel and Opteron chips continue to go head to head in the market, and more Windows shops are choosing to go in a new direction.

The latest round of competition began this week with announcements from both of the industry leaders that revealed plans for new dual-core processors. Intel Corp. emphasized plans for new low-voltage versions of dual-core Xeon. The move is seen by many to be an attempt to catch up with rival chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

It was once oddball to have a Microsoft shop deploy a server with an Opteron chip. Now, users are hoping for great performance with Windows Server on Opteron.

Bob Gill, TIP Inc.


Not to be outdone, just hours later, AMD announced its plans for three new dual-core Opteron processors.

"I don't think the AMD announcement was a direct response to the Dell news," said Bob Gill, Chief Research Officer with TheInfoPro (TIP) Inc., a New York consulting firm. "They have a lot in the coffers right now."

What Gill does think is interesting is the allegiance Dell Inc. continues to maintain with Intel. Dell has stuck with Intel in a time when many other traditionally Windows-based servers are looking seriously at Opteron.

"As recently as a year and half ago, you wouldn't see a Microsoft shop have any of what they would call 'that Opteron stuff,'" said Gill. "Now you have the actual software maker, Microsoft, getting on stage and saying 'this Opteron stuff is really neat.'"

Let the chips crash and burn where they may

TIP recently released a server study that Gill said points to an obvious change in the chip market. The survey asked respondents detailed questions about units of technology installed at the end of 2004, and what each was preparing to install in 2005. The increase in AMD chips is considerable, he said. The study reported approximately 60% of users had no standalone AMD servers at the end of 2004, and just 20% will be without AMD servers by the end of 2005.

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Gill said users are interested in Opteron chips both for architectural advantages as well as price, and that has increased the chips sales among new customers. "The strong tie, the Wintel alliance, is dwindling. While it was once oddball to have a Microsoft shop deploy a server with an Opteron chip," he pointed out, "now, with the new version of Windows Server coming out, users are hoping for great performance with Windows Server on Opteron."

Gill also said end users surveyed believe AMD has caught up with Intel in terms of sales and popularity. "Some actually believe they have surpassed Intel," Gill said.

Alan Thomas, a senior technical consultant at National Gypsum Properties LLC, a Charlotte, N.C., construction products manufacturer, said he would like to test Opteron in his servers, but his company uses Dell machines. "We've considered bringing them in to test, but Dell has not offered that yet," Thomas said.

But Thomas also said the advantages do not seem clear for choosing one processor over another. "From what I've seen, in terms of the technology, it's mostly just back and forth. One comes out with something new and then, soon after, another does. They are usually pretty comparable in my opinion."

Gill said that despite AMD's headway, Intel still has plenty of the market share. "Intel is not in any trouble," said Gill. "They're still dominant."

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