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AMD courts open source developers

Linux is becoming a strong operating system choice among corporate server buyers, said some analysts, and chipmakers are looking to capitalize on the trend. Consequently, the Linux community can play an important role in driving the growth of 64-bit systems.

Nathan Brookwood, analyst at Insight 64, made that observation and prediction at the AMD Developer Symposium, held last week at AMD's Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters. The two-day event, targeted at open sourcers, featured sessions on AMD's Hammer technology, many promoting the value of the x86-64 architecture in a Linux environment.

Brookwood, a featured presenter at the event, listed several drivers of 64-bit technology including increasing system memory configurations, whether I Linux or other environments. ''Sixty-four bit computing increases in importance as system memory configurations expand beyond four gigabytes,'' he told attendees.

The Hammer technology, AMD has said, will offer higher clock speeds and overall performance than its current 32-bit Athlon line. A major new feature of the chips will be 64-bit addressing, which AMD has dubbed ''x86-64.'' The x86-64 technology works by adding several new instructions to the current x86 processor architecture. The new instructions allow a chip to address much larger amounts of memory than current AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium x86-based chips, which address 32 bits of data.

AMD x86-64 technology is designed to support applications that address large amounts of physical and virtual memory, such as high performance servers, database management systems and CAD tools. The x86-64 technology integrates into the current computing and support environment, and is designed to enable enterprises to deploy high performance 64-bit capable systems.

Software written for AMD's older 32-bit technology will be able to run on Hammer chips without being recompiled, AMD said. Hammer chips for servers, which will be marketed under the names Opteron and Athlon. Opteron is the chip for servers and workstations, while AMD will keep its desktop brand name, Athlon, for the new Hammer desktop chip.

German Linux provider SuSE Linux AG announced in March that its Linux operating system would offer full 64-bit support for AMD's Hammer family of processors. The availability of SuSE Linux with x86-64 technology support is planned to coincide with Hammer processor-based system availability.

AMD officials also used the symposium to show off its soon-to-be-opened developer center, which the company described as a ''dedicated resource that provides software and hardware developers with access to AMD's technical expertise and systems based on Hammer technology.'' AMD technology partners will be able to access the center for development and testing of a full range of products and software, the company said in a statement, reducing the time and resources needed to realize 64-bit performance power.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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