AMD rolls out 64-bit server chip

Software and hardware suppliers have been quick to release products using Advanced Micro Devices latest 64-bit Opteron server...

Software and hardware suppliers have been quick to release products using Advanced Micro Devices latest 64-bit Opteron server processor.

SuSE Linux plans to make available a version of its Linux distribution for use on Opteron-based systems. SuSE has created a release of the open-source operating system that lets users run 32-bit applications as well as 64-bit ones, said Markus Rex, SuSE's vice-president of development.

SuSE built the release out of the same code it uses for servers based on Intel's Itanium and x86 chips and IBM's mainframe, midrange and Unix systems, which should make it easier for suppliers to develop applications for Opteron systems.

Red Hat said it plans to have an Opteron-enabled version of its Linux operating system ready by autumn. Meanwhile, Microsoft earlier this month said it will start beta-testing 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 for Opteron and AMD's upcoming Athlon 64 desktop processor by mid-year.

IBM said it would have an Opteron version of its DB2 Universal Database ready this summer, initially supporting SuSE's Linux software. Oracle confirmed that it is also developing a release of its Oracle9i database that will run on Opteron-based systems.

AMD said it is talking with top server suppliers about using Opteron in their systems. Some smaller server makers, including Polywell Computers, M&A Technology and Penguin Computing have already signed up to use the chip.

Nvidia said it plans to announce an Opteron-optimised graphics motherboard chip set for high-end workstations.

Analysts are cautiously optimistic about AMD's approach to the latest line of CPUs. 

One thing AMD has been doing well is getting large numbers of partners involved in the process early so complementary products can be ready at launch, said analyst Ted Schadler at Forrester Research.

"AMD is trying hard, and they're doing things right in a partner-driven world," he said. "That's an important industry dynamic. If you don't partner well, you don't get leverage." 

Schadler also noted that it is important that AMD's decision allows Opteron to run existing 32-bit applications.

"That's pretty powerful and obviously a decision Intel didn't make [with its 64-bit Itanium CPU family]. That's the place I think AMD is really starting to show some muscle." 

Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, said the chips give AMD its first real chip entry into the server market and offer an advantage over the Itanium 64-bit chips because of their support for 32-bit applications.

"With Itanium, you have to port them and it's not necessarily an easy port," Claybrook said. "I think we're going to see big things from AMD." 

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC, said that while the capabilities sound good, the announcements do not automatically translate into immediate inclusion in products from original equipment manufacturers or purchases by user companies.

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