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Enterprises using Linux may take liking to Opteron

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

Enterprises using Linux, or contemplating a move to the open-source operating system, figure to be among the early adopters of Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD) new 64-bit compatible Opteron processors, an industry analyst said.

Specifically, those enterprises doing high-performance computing, or those using distributed databases or application servers could find the new processors to be an advantage, said Gordon Haff, senior analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, Inc.

"I expect to see the initial use in high-performance computing, then from there it could move into other types of enterprise applications where there might be some benefits," Haff said. "One scenario could be where there are a large number of Web servers, for example, where they may be memory restricted. That might be more of a service-provider scenario. Linux has made inroads in distributed databases like Oracle and [IBM's] DB2 and application servers where 64-bit would be an advantage."

Opteron represents AMD's first foray into developing processors for the enterprise space. It provides a migration path to 64-bit computing for current 32-bit X86 users. Several leading software vendors hopped aboard as well today, including SuSE Linux AG, Microsoft and IBM, in addition to some smaller tier 2 and 3 vendors. Red Hat will deliver a version for Opteron in the fall.

SuSE will have a 64-bit version of its Linux operating system optimized for Opteron this week that takes

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advantage of the processor's 32- and 64-bit architecture while being able to use current 32-bit applications.

"It's easier to migrate to 64-bit because Linux has much more of a recompile-your-source-code mentality," Haff said. "In that sense it will be easier to move to a 64-bit platform. Having said that, binary compatibility is important and being able to mix 32- and 64-bit applications on a given system is very attractive."

Speaking of Windows, Microsoft was on hand for today's launch and promised a version of its Windows Server 2003 for Opteron later this year. IBM also presented AMD CEO Hector Ruiz with a certificate symbolizing verification of its DB2 database on Linux for Opteron.

Notably missing, but perhaps not so surprisingly, was Hewlett-Packard. HP has tossed its support behind Intel and the Itanium processor family for its entire server line, from Unix to Linux.

"Opteron is the evolution of the x86 instruction set and provides a seamless migration path to 64-bit computing," said Jerry Sanders, AMD founder and chairman of the board. "You can do 32-bit computing today, and 64-bit when you are ready. Opteron lets the customer decide when 64-bit is deployed."

Two features that help boost Opteron performance include HyperTransport, which links chips, and an integrated memory controller, which speeds the data flow between memory and the processor.

The first Opteron processors released were two-way systems, the 240, 242 and 244. The 240 is a 1.4 GHz processor, the 242 a 1.6 GHz and the 244 a 1.8GHz. AMD also release one-way processors in the third quarter, and said it will have eight-way processors ready for release later this quarter.

To back up performance claims, AMD trotted out TPC-C and SPECweb99 benchmark numbers which showed better figures than Itanium.


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