As more of our applications and data move to the cloud, data centers need to scale their hardware in response. For years however, the only real option has been Intel's Xeon line of processors. OEM manufacturers have been looking for more competition in a field where Intel has a 98% market share. AMD's answer is their new Epyc line of server chips and they are promising massive levels of performance.

The processors will range from the 8-core Epyc 7251, all the way up to the 32-core / 64-thread Epyc 7601. The entire lineup will feature 8-channel DDR4 RAM running at up to 2666MHz as well as 128 PCIe lanes. Some are comparing these new chips to 4 standard Ryzen processors soldered together on one die. Each processor can support up to 2TB of RAM, or 4TB in a dual socketed systems.

Having the same footprint, memory capacity, and PCIe bandwidth across the entire product range is a key differentiator AMD is hoping to take advantage of. Compared to Intel's lineup where choosing a lower tier processor means sacrificing some features, the only choice with Epyc is how many cores you need or can afford. To aid energy conscious data centers, Epyc will also allow for two operating modes: constant performance and constant power usage. This can dynamically adjust power and clock frequency to match user-defined parameters.

Third-party benchmarks will come in time, but AMD's internal numbers look impressive right out of the gate. The $4000 Epyc 7601 handily beats Intel's $4000 Xeon E5-2699A v4 offering 75% higher floating point performance and 47% higher integer processing. Even Intel's top-of-the-line chip only has 24 cores. AMD is bringing the heat in the midrange, too. At the $800 level, AMD is claiming their Epyc 7301 has 70% higher integer performance than Intel's E5-7630.

While all of this sounds great, Intel still holds the lion's share of the market. It will take a phenomenal launch for AMD to make any sort of dent. As the new chips begin to roll out in the next 6 or so months, Epyc's success will be made or broken by OEMs and whether or not end users see added value in switching to AMD's nascent platform.