AMD prepares to wield sledgeHammer

The code name for the eighth-generation microprocessor from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) may indicate what the company would like to use on rival Intel's 64-bit chip: a SledgeHammer.

AMD vice president of engineering, Fred Weber provided details about the x86 64-bit architecture at the Microprocessor Forum yesterday and also outlined plans for a future system bus, called Lightning Data Transport. The x86 64-bit architecture from AMD will allow users to continue running 32-bit applications while they make the transition, according to a statement from AMD.

Current applications usually have no need for a 64-bit instruction set and don't need to be ported, so AMD intends to provide 64-bit processors that can tell whether a particular application needs 32-bit or 64-bit power and adjust accordingly, the company said.

As for Lightning Data Transport, AMD described it as an internal interconnect between chips that can reach bandwidth of as much as 6.4Gbits per second per connection. The future system bus will have an internal data link allowing bandwidth increases for I/O (input/output), co-processing and multiprocessing.

Neither the statement from AMD or Weber's presentation said when the system bus and eighth-generation microprocessor will be available to customers. A company spokeswoman could not be reached to provide that information.

Whenever AMD does roll out the system bus and SledgeHammer, Intel apparently won't be fretting. Ron Curry, director of marketing for Intel's IA-64 division was asked in an interview if he views SledgeHammer as competition for Itanium, Intel's first 64-bit chip, which had been code-named Merced and is due out in the middle of next year.

"I know what Intel is having to spend to develop and establish IA-64 in the market and I really would have to question the viability of anyone else doing such a thing," Curry said.

Intel also has said that Itanium will be backward-compatible with 32-bit applications. Both Intel and AMD are aiming the new 64-bit chips at powerful servers in the market now dominated by RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips from Sun Microsystems and others.

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