AMD, Transmeta team up to build a new bus

AMD, Transmeta team up to build a new bus

In a surprising move, Transmeta and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) announced that they will be teaming up on two technologies the companies hope to make standard in future servers.

Transmeta has thrown its support behind AMD's HyperTransport bus, which the companies believe will enhance the PCI (peripheral component interconnect) bus, as well as AMD's x86-64 architecture, which will be the basis of AMD's "Hammer" family of 64-bit chips due out next year.

HyperTransport is the interface that chips on the motherboard will use to communicate with other elements that aren't on the CPU (central processing unit), Tranmeta vice chairman and chief technology officer David Diztel said. The technology, which has already been licensed by companies including Cisco Systems, Broadcom, Sun Microsystems and NVidia, will enable data transmission between the chips inside the PC to reach speeds of 12.8Gbps. There are currently about 150 companies involved in the development of HyperTransport, Ditzel said.

Companies have already started to build chipsets around the HyperTransport bus, which is up to 48 times faster than the standard input/output bus, including chipsets that would let the bus communicate with the InifniBand standard that Intel and others are developing, Ditzel said.

"We want to let the chipset makers know that we think this is the right bus to support," Ditzel said, "and because it takes them a year or two, you have to tell them in advance."

The aim is not to replace PCI-X, the existing bus technology used in PCs, said Fred Weber, chief technology officer at AMD. PCI-X was developed by IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer.

"This can be an enabler of large PCI-X systems as well as InfiniBand systems," he said. InfiniBand is a high-speed architecture for communication between processors and input/output devices.

Transmeta throwing its support behind AMD's x86-64 architecture might seem like a standard marketing response to Intel's expected launching of its 64-bit Itanium chip last week with a flurry of vendor announcements to follow, but Ditzel claims that's only a half truth.

"I think it's a topic of interest currently," he said. "We've actually been working with AMD for close to a year with these technologies."

The beauty of x86-64 is that it's compatible with software that runs on today's systems, Ditzel said.

"To get the maximum effects from [Itanium], you need to throw out all your software and get new software," he said.

That x86-64 is backwards-compatible with existing software and operating systems is a key part of its appeal, Weber said.

"If you can offer compatibility and performance, it's an absolute no-brainer," he said. The first x86-64 processors will be SledgeHammer and ClawHammer, which AMD expects to ship in the second half of next year.

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