AMD has formally launched its first dual-core Opterons - the day before Opteron's second anniversary.

The chipmaker's first dual-core Opterons will be targeted at servers with four processors and will begin shipping over the next few weeks in HP's ProLiant BL45p and DL585 systems and Sun's Sun Fire V40z servers. The new Opteron processors that will power these systems will be the 1.8GHz Model 865, the 2GHz Model 870 and the Model 875, which will have a clock speed of 2.2GHz.

Although the performance of dual-core systems is expected to be significantly greater than that of comparable single-core boxes, dual-core Opterons will have lower clock speeds than single-core chips. AMD's fastest single-core processor, Model 852, runs at 2.6GHz. If AMD had wanted to run its dual-core processors at a similar clock speed, the chips would have required much more power, analysts said.

Instead, the dual-core chips will draw a maximum of 95 watts, the same amount of power used by single-core Opteron processors, said Ben Williams, vice president of AMD's server and workstation business.

In fact, the dual-core Opterons are designed to be completely compatible with components designed for single-core processors, meaning that system vendors will be able to begin selling dual-core systems with a minimum of hassle, Williams said.

The new 800 series processors will be available in volume as of Thursday, and AMD plans to begin shipping three dual-core 200 series processors late next month. These chips, which are designed for two-way servers, will be followed later this year by 100 series processors as well as a number of low-power dual-core Opterons designed for the high-density server and embedded markets, Williams said.

A dual-core processor for desktop users, called the Athlon 64 X2, will be launched in June, AMD said. It will ship in four models and will have clock speeds between 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz, the company said.

AMD and Intel have run a tight race to beat each other to market with their dual-core chips. Earlier this week, Dell and Alienware Corp. began shipping systems with Intel's first dual-core processor, the 3.2GHz Pentium Extreme Edition 840.

The marketing blitz behind dual-core has turned out to be one of the more interesting aspects of this technology, said Kevin Krewell, editor-in-chief of Microprocessor Report. "They both launched their chips in the same week, which is pretty amusing," he said. "They're fighting tooth and nail."

"The reality is neither AMD nor Intel are first to the party," Krewell said. "In fact, they are late to the party for dual-core processors."' IBM and Sun have been shipping dual-core servers since the advent of their Power4 and UltraSparc IV chips, and many other vendors, including Azul Systems, which this week unveiled systems based on a 24-core processor, have mastered the move to multi-core designs, he said.

The three upcoming dual-core 100 series processors -- Models 164, 170, and 175 -- will be priced at $637, $799, and $999.