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AMD's x86-64 Moves Forward 384

MBCook writes "AMD Hammer line is definatly moving forward. The Inquirer has a supposidly leaked memo from MS saying that they have working x86-64 silicon that runs both 32 and 64-bit Win XP. Van's Hardware is reporting that MS is backing x86-64 over Intel's IA-64, and that MS has apparently convinced Intel to move to x86-64! There is an article over at Ace's Hardware from CeBIT that includes some coverage of AMD's Hammer line (including its NUMA). Last but not least is's report that MS is preparing Windows to support NUMA." And it looks like the line will be named Opteron.
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AMD's x86-64 Moves Forward

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @05:53PM (#3404923)
    The idea behind Opteron is to build off of the Latin root optimus meaning best or if you play with the translation a bit you get optimal unit or flagship.

    To me it sounds like a dinosaur ... look ma, all those wild Opterons running around.

    Hmmm ... like a bunch of cows is a "herd" ...
    Will a bunch of Opterons be called a "beowulf"?

  • Excuse me??!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lynuhx ( 216022 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @05:53PM (#3404930) Homepage
    I find it highly unlikely that _anyone_ could convince Intel (or any company, for that matter) to switch to a competitors architecture. Hammer will remain at AMD and IA-64 will stay on course with Intel. I'd need to hear it directly from both BODs to believe otherwise. Then again... I've been wrong before. :)
  • hmmm .. sounds fishy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frag-A-Muffin ( 5490 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @05:54PM (#3404937) Homepage
    that would explain why AMD is backing M$ in the M$ trial that's going on!

    It scares me to see huge companies like this, conspiring in court.

    Honestly though, I thought it would have been Intel, not AMD doing this.
    • Well, who knows, maybe this is the Big Crack in the Wintel monolith that we've all been waiting for. It will be ironic if AMD turns out to be Microsoft's best buddy and Intel ends up as the chipmaker of choice for Linux users, though ... Of course, it wouldn't be the first time Microsoft has suddenly parted company with an industry giant when it looked convenient for them.
    • It makes perfect sense though...

      Everybody knew Intel wanted to introduce a new instruction set with the Itanium and retire the x86 instruction set for good. It was a noble effort on Intel's part.

      AMD saw an oppurtunity. They knew that software development is slow and painful, and porting software form one architecture to another (especially when you never planed for it in the first place) is a long agonizing process. Most windows software is written for x86 32, there is a lot of it, and even with good tools it would take a long time to port everything to IA64. So, AMD did the next best thing and built 64bit extensions on top of the x86 instruction set (still some work to do, but a lot less).

      Microsoft of course, not being in this for the higher noble cause, realizs that it is cheaper, quicker, and easier to just extend their tools to use the x86+64 instruction set rather than redoing everything in IA64.

      Now, Microsoft, having the power it has tells Intel they don't want to port to the IA64. Intel panics, Microsoft gets its way (again), and we have yet another example of how Microsoft has too much power (when they can strongarm Intel like this, things have gone WAY too far).

      Just another day in cyberspace...
    • This is actually something of a unique situation, because microsoft rarely enters into a business deal with someone with whom they cannot reasonably compete. For example, the whole Sega Dreamcast evolves into Xbox at the cost of Sega, one of the big three console organizations.

      But microsoft can't compete with AMD. It would take them too long to spin up, and they don't know shit about that industry. AMD, on the other hand, could EASILY compete with microsoft, by the simple expedient of hiring some programmers to work on linux, or some other open source operating system. I just used linux as my example to yank your chain. They contribute code, gain cred, and make a whole bunch of crap work beautifully with their equipment.

      Won't happen though, because business as usual is good for everybody - Well, if everybody's a big company. It sucks for us, good thing competition isn't going to go away any time too soon. Even if AMD or intel went under, there would still be other CPUs in the world. But anyway, intel and AMD could conceivably swap places - over time, and they are getting closer, you must admit - but it would just end up being AMD vs. intel with AMD in the position of power. We can play musical chairs, but the tune stays the same.

      • One doesn't compete with Microsoft by hiring programmers. One competes with Microsoft by creating the best Marketing department the world has ever seen. AMD knows nothing about that.

        In fact, the only marketing leg-up for GNU/Linux over Windows is the cute Penguin. Everybody loves my Linux Fund credit card, regardless of what they (don't) know about GNU/Linux. =-)

        -Paul Komarek
    • that would explain why AMD is backing M$ in the M$ trial that's going on!

      Hopefully the Judge will be made aware of the back-scratching that is going on and will discount AMD's testimony appropriately. BTW, has there been any pro-Microsoft testimony that hasn't been paid for?
  • by b0r0din ( 304712 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @05:54PM (#3404941)
    I can't wait for one of these to be benchmarked against the current Intel line. But Opteron? Reminds me of Optimus Prime from Transformers. Then again, you may need a transformer just to run one of these :)
  • by d-rock ( 113041 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @05:55PM (#3404953) Homepage

    Forget the rumors, go to the source []. It's out and it looks to me like they haven't made any major changes to their plans. The big news is the MS support for Windows. Linux and *BSD should have no problems, as the x86-64 simulation code has been out for a while []. This is a good thing for everyone...


    • go to the soiurce?!?
      next you'll be saying "read the article" and other such rubbish...;)
    • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @06:17PM (#3405186) Homepage
      As per AMD's page, demo units are already up and running (will be running tomorrow at shareholders meeting).


      AMD also plans to demonstrate its AMD Opteron dual processor-based server running a developmental 64-bit version of Windows at its annual shareholders' meeting in New York City on Thursday, April 25.

      The demonstration features a server running a 64-bit Windows operating system, 64-bit applications, and other standard 32-bit office software, all on the same system. Those applications then are remotely accessed by the 8th-generation AMD Athlon desktop PC running Windows XP, illustrating the compatibility, flexibility and interoperability of AMD's 8th generation processor family.
      • ...8th-generation AMD Athlon...

        That's funny; since when is the K7/Athlon 8th-generation?
      • Those applications then are remotely accessed by the 8th-generation AMD Athlon desktop PC running Windows XP, illustrating the compatibility, flexibility and interoperability of AMD s 8th generation processor family.

        What does it have to do with the CPU? If my X11 applications are remotely accessed by the Intel 486 desktop PC running Debian, does it illustrate the compatibility, flexibility and interoperability of Intel 486 processor family?

  • by nusuth ( 520833 ) <oooo_0000us@ya h o o . c om> on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @05:57PM (#3404968) Homepage
    Honestly, I'm disappointed. I hope that number is for legacy 32bit applications only, can anyone confirm that? Even if that is the case, the number is still disappointing; SSE2 by itself should provide more than 5% on average.
    • Remember when the Pentium Pro came out? It was slower for non-32bit apps, but was a faster overall chip then the Pentium. The x86-64 based chips are the same. Unless you plan on using it for 64bit apps (for which the chip is designed for), then it's not the right chip for you. The nice thing about x86-64 is that you can still run your 32bit apps at a very good speed, while running newer 64bit apps at a (theoretically) much better speed.
    • Aces Hardware ( believes that that number is for 32-bit code only, as they point out previous statement from AMD that suggest that moving to 64-bit code from 32-bit should yeild a 15% improvement.
    • The 5% number refers only to the improvement in pre-compiled applications in 32-bit mode only and doesn't take into account the improvement that the integrated memory controller will add, or higher clock speeds for that matter.

      AMD is predicting a 20% improvement in performance from their integrated memory controller (I ran some numbers in my head a while back, and came up with slightly more then a 15% improvement on average, so 20% is perhaps slightly optimistic, but definately not out of line IMO). They're also predicting an additional 5% improvement from other minor enhancements to the core, plus they're planning on cranking the clock speeds up.

      As for SSEII, I don't think that they're considering that at all at this point. SSEII is used only very rarely, and typically it adds very little to the performance. There are a few limited cases where SSEII can DRAMTICALLY improve performance, but it's pointless to make a general comment based on those rare cases.

      Also, some people have been tossing around numbers for performance improvements related to recompiling apps for 64-bits on Hammer chips. Normally recompiling to 64-bits wouldn't add anything to the performance, but one of the important additions to x86-64 is that in 64-bit mode, the chip has twice as many general purpose registers as in 32-bit mode. Since the lack of general purpose registers has long been considered one of the weak points of x86, this should boost performance a bit. Now, by how much, I couldn't say. Some have suggested that it would be as high an extra 15% performance boost, though I think that would be a rather optimistic. I'd guess more on the 5-10% range on average, with some programs actually being slower (64-bit programs need more memory bandwidth then 32-bit ones).
  • by Utopia ( 149375 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @06:06PM (#3405076)
    I wonder why this is listed as a leak.
    When AMD announced this at a press conference a few hours ago.

    AMD nails Microsoft backing for Hammer []-CNET []
    MS to confirm Hammer support []-The Register, UK []
    Microsoft to Support AMD's Hammer []-eWeek []
  • by Mark_Hopkins ( 171974 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @06:07PM (#3405080)

    A webcast of today's conference call announcing Opteron is available here []


  • This info sounds about 23 days late to me.

    Slashdot's queue must be way deep.
  • My perception of "Opteron" was being derived from "optical"
    For example, using optical chip technology.
    I guess that's entirely forgiveable as Intel's "coppermine" implied using copper interconnects.
  • Much of the stuff mentioned in the article is confirmed and true, but this is a blatant lie to me:
    Van's Hardware is reporting that MS is backing x86-64 over Intel's IA-64

    Windows XP has been running on IA-64 for ages now, Nvidia's got drivers for it [], why would they support x86-64 OVER IA-64? Why not both? It appears they're doing both, and I've seen absolutely nothing to say otherwise.

    It wouldn't make any sense for MS not to support both ISAs. It's entirely possible (it's been done already), so why not keep them out there?

    I think Van Smith's a little off here. :)
  • Hmmm. quid pro quo. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @06:25PM (#3405258) Journal
    Does anyone remember the story earlier this month about AMD CEO testifying in favor of M$? link []Saying all these ridiculous things about how the tech industry would be nowhere w/o M$'s INNOVATION and how making windows modular was impossible and would set the computer industry back 20 years...

    Looks like AMD is getting their end of the bargain. Whether windows will even run on intels new chips or not, AMD looks like they have a headstart and the backing of M$.

    I suppose I should have expected this. AMD was staking it's whole future on their 64 bit solution support for which might have been iffy. With this they practically guarantee their future, maybe even take the lead from intel. We'll have to see how well prepared intel was with plan B (copying AMD if plan A failed).

    Now we can re-do those bill gates phonecalls in the last story and fill in the proper information.

    Bill Gates: Hello mr Sanders, I need a favour. How would you like M$ to back amd-64 over intel-64?
    Sanders: Ok Bill. What can I do for you?
    Bill Gates: We would like you to be our witness in this pesky antitrust trial. What do you think you could say in our support?

    • yes. i read that story, too. in return for statements supporting MS in the trial, MS would announce support for AMD64 ahead of intel.

      the prosecution was aware of the communications and it's in the court records.
  • 4-level page tables (Score:3, Interesting)

    by p3d0 ( 42270 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @06:26PM (#3405266)
    One thing that worries me about x86-64 is the page tables. They're 4 levels deep, and that still only gives a 48-bit address space. They stick with 4k pages. I guess they had to do it for backward compatibility, but to me this is clearly not the best approach.

    Though, IA-64 is pretty questionable too. The VLIW aspect is cool, but the compilers are a nightmare. Nobody knows how to write compilers to take advantage of speculative execution, for one thing.

    I'm not familiar with any other 64-bit architectures, but surely they're better than both of these?
    • Supposedly the PowerPC spec was written with both 32 and 64 bit processors in mind. I think IBM even uses some 64-bit variants for some of their "big iron".

      From what I understand, the 32->64 PPC transition will be seamless, and 32-bit programs will run without a performance hit.

  • Given how well AMD designed and executed the K7 (Athlon) my expectations are to see some seriously good performance for their follow-on chip.

    But, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Intel's IA-64 is evidence of that.

    Does anyone have any idea how fast the K8 will be in real life?

    Everywhere I've looked I haven't seen any performance numbers for the Hammer. How does it compare to say, the Power4?

  • Noooooooo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Burgundy Advocate ( 313960 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @06:38PM (#3405380) Homepage
    Dear God! How fucking lame!

    Another hacked on extention to the same old architecture that we've been using since the 4004 and 8080 (no, seriously). The basic 8-bit core, the bizarrely segmented registers, the warped-ass extentions, and the CISC instruction set... it all makes me sick. Not to mention that we're still using a fucking BIOS.

    Have you ever used something with OpenBoot? It's incredibly nice.

    But no, we're still using a system that's basically an overglorified 386DX.

    Despite the speed hit, the IA64 architecture was a step in the right direction. A big step. In this case, AMD is going to be setting the industry back.
    • Re:Noooooooo! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zapfie ( 560589 )
      From a technology standpoint, you're right. From a market standpoint, you're wrong. Backwards compatibility is almost always going to take precendence over new, incompatible technology.
    • Re:Noooooooo! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When Intel went and developed its 64-bit solution, Intel made it proprietary so AMD had to come up with something else. AMD wasn't big enough to try to come up with its own proprietary solution so it had really no choice but to extend their 32-bit solution to 64-bits. So Intel is both to blame for AMD keeping an outdated technology alive and Intel's woes in having a product that not many want. Intel would have been smarter to co-develop a new processor architecture with AMD, many people will only buy Intel anyway and having AMD along would make their joint solution the only solution. Intel should have been more like Coke or Pepsi and used their reputation to beat AMD at making essentially the same thing.
    • Besides a larger memory address space, does this 64-bit architecture do anything significantly better than the 32-bit stuff out there now?

      • A little, but not much. It keeps most of the ugly instruction decode of tradition x86, but adds an extra 8 GPRs (accessed via an additional opcode prefix). It also does a few minor other things, like I think it adds IP relative addressing.

        Basically, they did what they could to make it better while still using the same hardware to decode instructions. I'd have preferred it if they had a second, simpler decode unit to handle the new stuff so that the overcomplicated x86 decode could eventually be phased out, but it didn't make sense business-wise for them to do so.
      • I've been working with Alphas for scientific computation. I'm not really aware that their 64-bitness has helped us in any way besides the huge address space. That said, other aspects of the Alpha are wonderful and glorius.

        Actually, there is another benefit to 64 bit cpus: punishing programmers who make *stupid* assumptions about pointers =-).

        -Paul Komarek
    • And what exactly is wrong with a BIOS? Open Firmware is nicer, yes, but at the end of the day you still need something to get up and running.

      You're correct about the overglorified 386DX thing, though. That's why there are a large number of /.ers who would wet their pants if a cheap PowerPC mobo went on the market tomorrow.

      What bothers me more is this: AMD appears to be on the verge of taking over the standards war from Intel. Fine. It's about time Intel got smacked down by the market instead of the courts. But they're doing it with a hand up from M$... that doesn't bode well for the future, I think.

      That said, I won't turn down an Opteron box if I have the opportunity to build one (wouldn't take an Itanic if you paid me though), but I'm running Intel Inside because it cost me $200 when I bought it... moreover, I'm typing this on an iMac.

      • But they're doing it with a hand up from M$... that doesn't bode well for the future, I think.

        If you visit, you'll see AMD's efforts to garner open-source support. AMD is relying on MS for an x86-64 port of windows. It's a make-or-break deal for AMD, it helps them tremendously for MS to "validate" their version of 64-bit x86. Whether this relationship continues in the future remains to be seen, especially if Linux ever fulfills its destiny and makes MS irrelevant. Intel and MS were once favorite bed partners.

    • LAHF = Load AH with flags

      The LAHF instruction loads some of the condition flags into the AH register. The bit positions emulate the flags register of the 8008 processor so LAHF+PUSH AX is equivalent to PUSH A. This instruction was designed to support automatic translation of 8085 code to 8086.

      All x86 processors still support this instruction (yes, that includes your latest Pentium)
  • Success (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Veteran ( 203989 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @08:13PM (#3405800)
    When the 8086 processor debuted it was by far an inferior processor to both the Zilog Z8000 and the Motorola 68000. It wound up dominating the market place for several reasons.

    1. Software - the 8086 had a leg up on everyone because it had a translator which allowed the thousands of CP/M applications to be ported to it easily. The killer ap at the time was WordStar.

    2. The 8086, and in particular the 8088, were less expensive to build machines around.

    3. The 68000 and the Z8000 were comparatively elegant and beautiful designs; the 8086 was strong and ugly. Pick Mike Tyson over Cindy Crawford in a fight. Intel was able to turn marketing from a engineering and software beauty contest into a fight - and it came out on top.

    Today the shoe is on the other foot.

    1. The Opteron does a much better job of running 32 bit aps than either Merced or Mckinley - similar to advantage 1 above.

    2. The Amd processor will be a lot less expensive to build for - reason number 2 above.

    3. The Intel processor has the beautiful new architecture - the Opteron the good old strong and ugly one.

    The only way Intel is going to come out on top this time is to make an even stronger and uglier 64 bit version of the X86; something which looks like a 64 bit version of the current Pentium 4 - ridiculous pipeline for super high clock speeds etc.

    Right now things don't look very good for Intel.
    • Sorry for the typo - it was supposed to be: an engineering...

      At the time that the 8086 came out Intel also produced a 32 bit processor which was going to use Ada as its 'assembly' language. It was a complete and total failure. No one ever bought any to speak of - it was actually slower than an 8080 eight bit machine!

      That older 32 bit flop kind of reminds me of Itanium; a grandiose architecture with no performance and no software; other than those minor flaws they are both fine machines. I expect the Itanium to have about the same level of success in the market place as it did.

    • The only way Intel is going to come out on top this time is to make an even stronger and uglier 64 bit version of the X86; something which looks like a 64 bit version of the current Pentium 4 - ridiculous pipeline for super high clock speeds etc.

      I disagree - But what they DO have to do is work out a better compatibility layer. That is not negotiable. You must have 100% compatibility at the hardware level or you are proverbially screwed, blued, and tattooed. Or however that goes.

      You're right about the cost thing though. If it's not dramatically better at being a server (which it could be; Anything pushing a lot of data will benefit greatly from 64 bit registers) then it will have NO purpose at all, wither, and die the death of a thousand dogs, amen.

  • The idea behind Opteron is to build off of the Latin root optimus meaning best or if you play with the translation a bit you get optimal unit or flagship.

    The first thing that comes to my mind is "optional", which is perhaps not so good for the company holding the second place in the market. Maybe they should have called it the "Superon".

    Incidentally, I wonder how many people relalize that "durus" means "hard" in Latin, so "Duron" was kind of suggestive...

  • So big bad Intel is going to face even more competition. Boo Hoo. Competition is good. My only concern in all this is that AMD being in bed with M$ will mean they won't be as inclined to say.. help tweak gcc for their new architecture. Intel would be smart to fully embrace the Open Source community at this time.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur