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AMD to reveal 'Pacifica' processor virtualisation spec

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AMD will next month detail its answer to Intel's Virtualisation Technology (VT) with the publication of its AMD64 platform's virtualisation system spec.

Dubbed Pacifica, the technology will allow AMD's 64-bit server, desktop and mobile processors to host multiple operating systems - or many instances of the same OS - simultaneously. It's a technique well established in the 'big iron' mainframe world, but one makers of chips for low-end servers are keen to adopt, the better to eat into mid-range to high-end system sales.

Intel has been touting such a system for the last 18 months or so, and in January this year brought VT's desktop release forward to this year from 2006. According to Intel's internal roadmap, it will ship updated Pentium 4 processors next quarter, and these are expected to sport VT.

AMD first mentioned Pacifica last Autumn, and it's clearly chasing Intel. Today, it said Pacifica will be implemented "by introducing a new model and features into the processor and memory controller" of its AMD64 CPUs. Pacifica appears to implement the technique through a series of extensions to the core x86 and AMD64 instruction sets. The first chips to incorporate them will appear in "the first half of 2006", AMD said. Pacifica will be applied to both single- and dual-core processors.

As it has with Intel's VT, virtualisation software specialist VMware today affirmed its support for Pacifica. What else can it do? Virtualisation is going to be a key component of the x86 platform, and it has to deal with that. Better to leverage VT and Pacifica to simplify and enhance its own code than try and battle both with a software-only solution. ®

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