Intel moves toward 64-bit

Intel moves toward 64-bit

Intel will release a server version of its 64-bit extensions technology for its x86 platform in 60 days, and as users refresh their servers over the next two years, they will get 64-bit computing capability -- whether they want it or not. But analysts claim it remains uncertain whether application developers will give users a reason to take advantage of this 64-bit computing capacity.

The arrival of the 64-bit x86 chip, which can also run 32-bit applications, really opened the door to all (independent software vendors) to at least consider whether they should 64-bit-enable their applications, according to Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata.

If there was any benefit, they would have to act -- particularly if they needed to keep pace with competitors, he said.

The x86, 64-bit extended platform gaveusers the opportunity to experiment with 64-bit applications, something that was previously possible only on dedicated systems, an analyst at the Sageza Group, Charles King, said.

"It has a good deal of flexibility, and I think that flexibility is something that will appeal with a lot of businesses," he said.

Advanced Micro Devices began delivering its 64-bit, x86 Opteron systems last year, and major enterprise vendors are now shipping Opteron chips.

"What Intel is doing is refreshing their whole product line, so no product will have merely the 32-bit [chip]," an analyst at D.H. Brown Associates, Rich Partridge, said. "Eventually, all their products will be 64-bit design."

But Partridge said users might see a break on prices for 32-bit systems as the new servers arrived.

Intel has announced its workstation 64-bit extensions technology, even as HP and Dell both announced workstations built on the new Intel chip. But Dell, unlike HP, Sun and IBM, wasn't delivering Opteron-based hardware, and a company spokesperson said it had no plans to do so in the near future.

Dell continued to look at AMD's technology, the spokesperson said.

IBM officials declined to comment on their plans for Intel's new chip line, but the company was expected to eventually ship products built on it, according to analysts.

Sun Microsystems, which has plans to eventually develop an eight-way Opteron system, intends to evaluate the Intel chip but hasn't announced any detailed plans to ship systems with it.

Executive vice-president of Sun's networked systems groups, John Fowler,said he expected Opteron to outperform the Intel chip.

"But I'm not religious about the microprocessor; I'm just out to deliver the best possible value," he said.

High-end users already have large Sparc RISC-based systems and Itanium for running 64-bit applications. But Opteron has been making inroads in the high-performance computing space, especially among Linux users in clustered environments, because its price is less than that of Unix systems.

In November, about six months after Opteron was released, AMD had four spots on the Top500 supercomputer list, including one system run by AMD.

But by the time the semi-annual list was updated last week, Opteron had nearly 30 spots at university, government and military facilities, including 10th spot, the Shanghai Supercomputer Center.

Intel, however, dominates the compilation, with 286 spots.

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