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Penguin Wooed By Platform Vendors

AMD Plays Up Simultaneous 32- and 64-Bit Linux Computing

  • August 11, 2003
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

At LinuxWorld last week, 64-bit Linux was big news. OEMs ranging from IBM, HP and SGI to lesser known names such as Newisys unveiled hardware systems based on Intel Itanium or AMD Opteron chip sets.

Although 64-bit support is still forthcoming from most large ISVs, some smaller software vendors used the LinuxWorld stage to throw their hats into the ring. Meanwhile, AMD talked up Opteron's dual-mode 64- and 32-bit support as a useful interim measure for ISVs and customers alike.

SGI announced plans for a 128-processor edition of Altix 3000, a Linux-based high-end server rolled out earlier this year on 64-bit Itanium processors. Altix 3000 currently runs a custom version of Linux. The 128-processor system is due out this spring.

HP and IBM each unveiled pre-integrated Linux clusters for 64-bit systems. The HPclusters run on HP's 64-bit Itanium platform, whereas the clusters rolled out by IBM last week operate on AMD's 64-bit Opteron. Also at LinuxWorld, Newisys showed its new Opteron-based 4300 Enterprise-Class Server.

"We've built an architecture that prevents the need for forklift upgrades," maintained Ben Williams, director of AMD's Server Business Unit

The week before the show, IBM announced intentions to produce an Opteron-based workstation in 2004, according to Williams.

Actually, though, Opteron-based workstations are already shipping from smaller OEMs such as Monarch Computing, Williams said. Fujitsu-Siemens is planning an Opteron-based workstation, as well.

Opteron uses an integrated DDR DRAM memory controller, aimed at better memory performance, together with AMD's HyperTransport Technology, which is designed to lessen bottlenecking by reducing the number of system buses.

"We've also enhanced the instruction set so that you can run either 64- or 32-bit applications--or, if you want to, both simultaneously," according to Williams.

ISVs can take advantage of the architecture to port only some portions of their software to 64-bit, while leaving the remainder in 32-bit mode, Williams contended. "Computer Associates, for example, has ported only its Ingres database to 64-bit. ISVs can bring a 64-bit application to market much more quickly if they don't also have to port all their other software at the same time."

Williams acknowleged that not all applications need 64-bit processing. Applications benefiting most are those with high data availability and/or high memory addressability requirements. On the workstation side, this typically means CAD/CAM, engineering, and rendering software, he said.

Also at LinuxWorld, AMD announced 64-bit software ports by several smaller partners--Axceleon, Streamline Solutions, Strata Corporation, and PDF Solutions--for statistical analysis, simulation, and cluster computing.

Also on the software side, HP launched a variety of server management and cluster computing software for its 64-bit Itanium platform. The HP software will run on Red Hat Enterprise Server and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8.

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