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Hardware world loves AMD Opteron

Nvidia, VIA, Asus, ECS, Gigabyte etcetera

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A couple of weeks ago, AMD announced the support of ATI, 3DLabs, SiS and Matrox and for its upcoming 64-bit chips. Today, it’s the turn of Nvidia and VIA to pile in with their support for the Opteron (MP) and Next-Generation Athlons (singletons). Both companies are to produce optimised chipsets – Hypertransport, fat graphics etc; - for AMD’s 64-bit platform.

Nvidia says it also developing software drivers which will "leverage the power of the 64-bit AMD Opteron and Athlon processors upon their release in the market". (We’re not sure what this means: are you? Certainly, the driver retrofit won't entail use of any of the increased address space made available through 64-bit CPU.)

Of course Nvidia and VIA could have made their graphics play along with ATI, SiS et al, but then this would have been a PR opportunity missed. Today's AMD Opteron photo-call is prompted by the opening day of Computex, Asia's most important computer show. in Taipei today AMD is running a 4-way demo of Opteron. The PR invite to the gig shows that there is plenty of work to be done, certainly if the email sent by mistake to InfoWorld in Taiwan is anything to go by.

"The demos we're currently showing are anything but high-performance. They're pretty low-performance right now, and we don't want to invite questions about just how fast they're running," read one unattributed comment contained in the draft invitation.

No questions, OK? AMD's Opteron is to launch sometime in the first half of 2003, so there's plenty of time for tuning the processor, and tweaking the software (or is it the other way around?).

For Computex, AMD has assembled a bunch of Taiwanese mobo makers to announce their support for x86-64, including FIC, Asus, Gigabyte and ECS. Oh, and Phoenix, the BIOS people, are also getting in on the act.

The support of AMD's hardware allies is welcome, but for now the rallying standard behind Hypertransport may be more significant than the call to arms for 64-bit computing, x86-style. AMD's hybrid 32-bit/64-bit CPU strategy makes good sense, so far as manufacturing economies of scales are concerned. It'll be years, though, before, the x86 desktop applications of today scale up to x86-64. Microsoft is beavering away on AMD's behalf, as is SuSE which is handling the Linux dev. But what about the Unix apps world?

Compatibility with Unix is more important than compatability with x.86 for today's 64-bit applications. Next step for AMD has to be the porting centres, and support from the enterprise software guys. This won't come quickly. Because in the server world, things rarely do. ®

Three press releases

AMD Opteron industry support press release
Nvidia press release
VIA press release.

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