Linux companies go for AMD's Hammer

SuSE and Red Hat to help AMD batter Intel with Hammer

Linux distribution companies including SuSE and Red Hat will lead the development of Linux for AMD's forthcoming 64-bit family of microprocessors, the companies are expected to announce at LinuxWorld Tuesday.

AMD released initial specification details of its 64-bit "Hammer" range of 64-bit processors to software developers last week.

AMD's longstanding rival Intel has been working with various Linux distributors including Caldera, Red Hat, TurboLinux and SuSE, through the Trillian project, to help ready a 64-bit version of Linux for its own 64-bit technology.

AMD will today also announce a technology simulator that will enable BIOS vendors and applications providers develop code designed to run on the x86-64 instruction set used by the Hammer processors. The microprocessor company will also unveil the x86-64 Web site www.x86-64.org, which will provide technological specifications and tools for programmers from September.

European-based SuSE is eager to see Linux power Hammer chips. "AMD's x86-64 architecture provides the perfect platform for SuSE to pursue its enterprise strategy," says Volket Wiegand, president of SuSE. "Enhanced for AMD's 64-bit specifications, Linux becomes a premier operating system environment for hundreds of thousands of IT implementations."

AMD has likewise expressed a determination to support the Linux community throughout its development for Hammer. "AMD engaged the developer community at large to solicit feedback on its specifications and we are now committed to providing developers the support and tools for creating x86-64 code that is designed to move the industry towards 64-computing," says Fred Weber, vice president of engineering at AMD's computation products group.

Unlike Intel, AMD's approach to 64-bit computing is to build upon the x86 instruction set currently used in most PCs. The approach will allow Hammer systems to run 32-bit and 64-bit software equally well. Intel's upcoming IA-64 chips, which use a new programming architecture called Epic, will be able to run 32-bit software only in emulation, with a significant performance drop.

X86 compatibility also makes AMD's 64-bit technology less daunting for software developers wanting to get the most out of 64-bit computing. Hammer will be capable of running in a 64-bit mode with eight general-purpose register extensions as well as a compatibility mode that will provide support for 16-bit and 32-bit software.

See Chips Central for daily hardware news, including an interactive timeline of AMD and Intel's upcoming product launches.

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