Posts Tagged ‘launch’

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Quick-Take: iPad2 Launched, Features Left on the Drawing Board

March 2, 2011

The iPad2, Available in "Black or White" on March 11, 2011

No doubt that Apple is the 800lb gorilla in the room when it comes to mobile tablets and phones today. With lack-lustre acceptance of the first “official” Android tablet – Motorola’s Xoom – the new aspects of the Apple iPad2, announced today, will surely keep iPad adopters on-board for the next version. Coming March 11, 2011, the new iPad will come in three memory sizes (16, 32 and 64GB) and be available as an WiFi-only variant (802.11a/b/g/n) as well as a Wi-Fi+3G+aGPS variant (UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA/GSM/EDGE or CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A) – both with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

Besides coming in a “white” model from “day one,” the iPad2 sports the anticipated Apple A5 dual-core system on chip based on the ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. The 9.7 inch LED-backlit multi-touch display features the coveted IPS display technology that gave the original iPad such great color. Additionally, the iPad2 joins the iPhone4 in the dual-camera club with a front-facing VGA camera (suitable for FaceTime) and a rear-facing HD camera (suitable for 720p, 30 fps video).

Apple's HDMI "mirroring" connector includes pass-through 30-pin port for charging.

Rounding-out the features include HDMI output via proprietary 30-pin to HDMI+30-pin adapter (dongle) supporting video to 1080p. Missing from the “dreamed about” feature list are: high-resolution display, removable media, standard USB ports,  autonomous GPS and near field communications interface. At 0.34 inches thick and 1.33 lbs, the iPad2 shed 0.17 lbs and 0.16 inches in thickness by removing the additional display glass, but it kept the original’s 1024×768 display – a slip behind the standard 1280×800 display profile of Honeycomb-wielding 10″ tablets.

Out of the gate, iPad2 versions will be available for AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the US (although specific launch dates for either carrier are not yet available). The iPad in Business section of the release site looks impressive on the surface. The existing list of business oriented applications for iPad together with the obvious polish of the product represents a real obstacle for its competitors (like QNX-based Blackberry Playbook and Android-based Motorola Xoom).

SOLORI’s Take: The iPad2 represents a conservative update to the existing and wildly successful iPad (over 10M units in 2H 2010). Loyalist iPad users are early adopters, so it’s a no-brainer to predict that 3M iPad2’s will ship in H1/2011 to “iPad1” owners. If it happens, that makes for a solid supply of discarded iPads over the next few months which can actually HELP Apple entrench – giving them an artificial low-end product due to upgrades. Given that there is zero reference to the original iPad on Apple’s site, it’s safe to say that when inventories are gone, iPad2 will be the only game for Apple.

The shortcoming for iPad2 over its Android contenders is physical standards. I mentioned the screen resolution as compared to Android Honeycomb standard, but the Blackberry Playbook comes in under both devices at 1024×600 (last year’s “unofficial” Android tablet standard). While the Playbook is lighter at 0.9 lbs, it’s also smaller (and 0.1″ thicker) – more of a challenger for Galaxy Tab than iPad. Most of the Tegra2 tablets have mini-USB (some have full-size USB) and offer either mini-HDMI or full-size HDMI ports – either on-board or through a docking port. It’s rumoured that Apple has locked-up the IPS display market, but at 1024×768, those opting for higher resolution may turn to Android competitors for more desktop real estate.

Besides matching iPad2 feature-for-feature, Tegra2 Android tablets represent a serious threat (technologically) to iPad2. Another issue is storage: nearly every Android comes with both removable and built-in memory options – something neither iPad or Blackberry offer. In a business world, the ability to quickly exchange data without using WiFi or 3G/4G is huge – especially where remote access applications are concerned. That makes iPad dependent on its wireless carriers and WiFi/hot-spots for data exchange (or docking/undocking to notebook, laptop, etc.) The removable memory feature also allows enterprises to purchase the low-end memory configuration and supplement them with third-party memory or require end-users to supply their own.

Where iPad2 has the biggest advantage is turn-key applications through Apple’s iTunes market, and this is something they’re pressing heavily in today’s marketing message. Forget the clever iPad2 cover, its applications that ultimately make the product valuable to business. If Apple can stay ahead here, enterprise will follow. Unfortunately, Apple may find its “hatred” for Adobe’s Flash a position that could erode its market faster than anything else. Flash could be the great equalizer (or market accelerator) for Android and Blackberry, allowing businesses to rely on web-apps instead of native ones… in the meantime, Google has the clout and growth rate to compel all but the staunchest of application vendors to play both sides of the split market.

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Quick-Take: AMD Dodeca-core Opteron, Real Soon Now

March 3, 2010

In a recent blog, John Fruehe recounted a few highlights from the recent server analyst event at AMD/Austin concerning the upcoming release of AMD’s new 12-core (dodeca) Opteron 6100 series processor – previously knows as Magny-Cours. While not much “new” was officially said outside of NDA privilege, here’s what we’re reading from his post:

1. Unlike previous launches, AMD is planning to have “boots on the ground” this time with vendors and supply alignments in place to be able to ship product against anticipated demand. While it is now well known that Magny-Cours has been shipping to certain OEM and institutional customers for some time, our guess is that 2000/8000 series 6-core HE series have been hard to come by for a reason – and that reason has 12-cores not 6;

Obviously the big topic was the new AMD Opteron™ 6000 Series platforms that will be launching very soon.  We had plenty of party favors – everyone walked home with a new 12-core AMD Opteron 6100 Series processor, code name “Magny-Cours”.

– Fruehe on AMD’s pending launch

2. Timing is right! With Intel’s Nehalem-EX 8-core and Core i7/Nehalem-EP 6-core being demoed about, there is more pressure than ever for AMD to step-up with a competitive player. Likewise, DDR3 is neck-and-neck with DDR2 in affordability and way ahead with low-power variants that more than compensate for power-hungry CPU profiles. AMD needs to deliver mainstream performance in 24-cores and 96GB DRAM within the power envelope of 12-cores and 64GB to be a player. With 1.35V DDR3 parts paired to better power efficiency in the 6100, this could be a possibility;

We demonstrated a benchmark running on two servers, one based on the Six-Core AMD Opteron processor codenamed “Istanbul,” and one 12-core “Magny-Cours”-based platform.  You would have seen that the power consumption for the two is about the same at each utilization level.  However, there is one area where there was a big difference – at idle.  The “Magny-Cours”-based platform was actually lower!

– AMD’s Fruehe on Opteron 6100’s power consumption

3. Performance in scaled virtualization matters – raw single-threaded performance is secondary. In virtual architectures, clusters of systems must perform as one in an orchestrated ballet of performance and efficiency seeking. For some clusters, dynamic load migration to favour power consumption is a priority – relying on solid power efficiency under high load conditions. For other clusters, workload is spread to maximize performance available to key workloads – relying on solid power efficiency under generally light loads. For many environments, multi-generational hardware will be commonplace and AMD is counting on its wider range of migration compatibility to hold-on to customers that have not yet jumped ship for Intel’s Nehalem-EP/EX.

“We demonstrated Microsoft Hyper-V running on two different servers, one based on a Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor codenamed “Barcelona” (circa 2007) and a brand new “Magny-Cours”-based system. …companies might have problems moving a 2010 VM to a 2007 server without limiting the VM features. (For example, in order to move a virtual machine from an Intel  “Nehalem”-based system to a “Harpertown” [or earlier] platform, the customer must not enable nested paging in the “Nehalem” virtual machine, which can reduce the overall performance of the VM.)”

– AMD’s Fruehe, extolling the virtues of Opteron generational compatibility

SOLORI’s Take: It would appear that Magny-Cours has more under the MCM hood than a pair of Istanbul processors (as previously charged.) To manage better idle performance and constant power performance in spite of a two-to-one core ratio and similar 45nm process, AMD’s process and feature set must include much better power management as well, however, core speed is not one of them. With the standard “Maranello” 6100 series coming in at 1.9, 2.1 and 2.2 GHz with an HE variant at 1.7GHz and SE version running at 2.3GHz, finding parity in an existing cluster of 2.4, 2.6 and 2.8 GHz six-core servers may be difficult. Still, Maranello/G34 CPUs will be at 85, 115 and 140W TDP.

That said, Fruehe has a point on virtualization platform deployment and processor speed: it is not necessary to trim-out an entire farm with top-bin parts – only a small portion of the cluster needs to operate with top-band performance marks. The rest of the market is looking for predictable performance, scalability and power efficiency per thread. While SMT makes a good run at efficiency per thread, it does so at the expense of predictable performance. Here’s hoping that AMD’s C1E (or whatever their power-sipping special sauce will be called) does nothing to interfere with predictable performance…

As we’ve said before, memory capacity and bandwidth (as a function of system power and core/thread capacity) are key factors in a CPU’s viability in a virtualization stack. With 12 DIMM slots per CPU (3-DPC, 4-channel), AMD inherits an enviable position over Intel’s current line-up of 2P solutions by being able to offer 50% more memory per cluster node without resorting to 8GB DIMMs. That said, it’s up to OEM’s to deliver rack server designs that feature 12 DIMM per CPU and not hold-back with only 8 DIMM variants. In the blade and 1/2-size market, cramming 8 DIMM per board (effectively 1-DPC for 2P Magny-Cours) can be a challenge let alone 24 DIMMs! Perhaps we’ll see single-socket blades with 12 DIMMs (12-cores, 48/96GB DDR3) or 2P blades with only one 12 DIMM memory bank (one-hop, NUMA) in the short term.

SOLORI’s 2nd Take: It makes sense that AMD would showcase their leading OEM partners because their success will be determined on what those OEM’s bring to market. With VDI finally poised to make a big market impact, we’d expect to see the first systems delivered with 2-DPC configurations (8 DIMM per CPU, economically 2.5GB/core) which could meet both VDI and HPC segments equally. However, with Window7 gaining momentum, what’s good for HPC might not cut it for long in the VDI segment where expectations of 4-6 VM’s per core at 1-2GB/VM are mounting.

Besides the launch date, what wasn’t said was who these OEM’s are and how many systems they’ll be delivering at launch. Whoever they are, they need to be (1) financially stronger than AMD, (2) in an aggressive marketing position with respect to today’s key growth market (server and desktop virtualization), and (3) willing to put AMD-based products “above the fold” on their marketing and e-commerce initiatives. AMD needs to “represent” in a big way before a tide of new technologies makes them yesterday’s news. We have high hopes that AMD’s recent “perfect” execution streak will continue.