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AMD quad-core Barcelona supported by OS heavyweights

OS vendors including Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, Sun and VMware have all tweaked their operating systems for compatibility with AMD's quad-core processor, due out in September.

For more on AMD:
AMD trailers upcoming quad-core Opteron processor

Intel intros low voltage quad-core Xeon ahead of AMD

AMD multicore processors to support more memory
Today, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) announced that leading x86 operating system vendors have optimized their systems to work in concert with AMD's native quad-core Opteron processor for when it hits the market in September.

Microsoft, Novell Inc., Red Hat Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., and VMware Inc. are among the OS vendors that have tweaked their operating systems, support tools and middleware to leverage enhanced power management and virtualization features of the chip, which is code-named Barcelona.

We'll see whether AMD's performance promises pan out.
Charles King,
senior analystPund-IT Inc.

In June, AMD announced that it would begin shipping the processors to vendors for revenue in August, with systems from AMD platform partners beginning to ship in September.

"We are working to make sure there is a robust ecosystem to support the quad-core processor when it comes out," said Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions at AMD. "A number of OS vendors currently have or will have OSes that are optimized to take advantage of quad-core processors. Just putting Barcelona out wouldn't be very useful if the ecosystem wasn't there to support it."

Collaboration, compatibility equals increased capability
When processors are about to become commercially available, collaboration with other vendors is typical. Chip makers get their offerings out to OS developers so that independent software vendor (ISV) applications that are performance-sensitive can be prepared for their arrival, said Charles King, a senior analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif.

OSes will be optimized for AMD's quad-core processor as follows:
Novell SLES 9 (SP4): 4Q 2007
Novell SLES 10 (SP1): Released
RHEL 4.5: Released
RHEL 5: Released
Solaris 10, R4: Released Solaris 10, R5: 4Q 2007 Windows Server 2003 SP2, R2: Released
Windows XP SP2, x64: Released
Windows Vista: Released Windows Server 2008:
2Q 2008
VMware ESX: Planned

Long before the November 2006 launch of its quad-core processor Xeon, Intel Corp. worked with OS vendors to enable support for the technology. The chip maker collaborated with Microsoft, Apple, Red Hat, Novell, Sun and others to foster full support in Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Solaris, an Intel spokesperson said.

Existing operating systems work with quad-core chips but are not designed to take full advantage of them, Lewis said.

In the case of AMD's quad-core processor, operating systems have been enhanced to support technologies in Barcelona like PowerNow, which detects computer utilization rates and feeds power according to fluctuations, Lewis said. AMD's quad-core chip will also have a feature to optimize virtualization called rapid virtualization indexing (or nested page tables), enabling more efficient memory handling, Lewis said.

"In a virtualized world with lots of memory running, this technology reduces overhead when switching between virtual machines. We wanted OSes to be compatible with that," Lewis said.

Microsoft Windows Server, Novell, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10, and VMware ESX Server are expected to offer versions of their operating systems that work out of the box with AMD's native x86 quad-core processors.

Intel vs. AMD
With Xeon, Intel has a good head start in the quad-core space and has been able to regain its footing to compete with AMD. But King said that AMD's product will be worth the wait.

"I think it is absolutely critical that AMD get the chips out into the marketplace, with Intel out there reasserting itself in the market," King said. "I expect everyone who has worked closely with AMD -- especially Sun, which is highly dependent on AMD -- will be pleased with quad-core processors."

"It will be interesting to see the performance increase of the native quad core from AMD versus Intel's quad core, which is two cores slapped onto the same die," King said. "We'll see whether AMD's performance promises pan out."

Much as expected, when asked how AMD's quad-core release will affect its sales, Intel affirmed confidence in its product.

"Intel shipped its one-millionth quad core processor earlier this year and delivered incredible performance and performance per watt over the past year," an Intel spokesperson said. "We are now focused on our second-generation quad-core processor that will ship in the fourth quarter. It will be the first in the industry on our world-leading, 45-nanometer, high-K metal gate, high-performance and low-power silicon process and will enable huge leaps forward."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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