RealTime IT News

AMD to Announce New x86 Features

AMD next week will announce its latest effort to add new instructions to the x86 architecture, although just what is a bit of a mystery. A company spokesperson would only acknowledge that there will be news surrounding enhancements to the x86 instruction set on August 30, but that was all.

AMD  has added its own clones of Intel  extensions, such as the SSE instructions, plus its own, 3DNow!

Its biggest and most successful effort was the x86-64 extensions, which made the architecture 64-bit while retaining backwards compatibility. Intel initially dismissed the idea of 64-bit x86 extensions but embraced them soon after.

The 64-bit extensions, now called AMD64, played a huge role in AMD's turnaround from an also-ran to a major competitor of Intel. Its latest processor generation, the "Barcelona" family of Opteron chips, are due for launch September 10.

But In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor thinks AMD has bigger fish to fry. AMD is already behind Intel in terms of technology and performance, Barcelona is several months late and its next generation, "Bulldozer,"is two years away.

"They need new cores. The Bulldozer timeframe of 2009 is too late," he told internetnews.com. "I'm really concerned about their schedule. The biggest thing AMD has to worry about is getting new processor architectures out. That should be the most critical thing they are working on, and getting them out as quick as possible."

There is one exception to that, I/O virtualization. That technology has been lagging, in part because it's not easy. Making several virtual machines share a two- and four-core processor is one thing. Making them share memory, network interfaces and the I/O busses is something entirely different, a lot harder and a lot more valuable.

"It's one thing to partition the processor, it's another thing to partition the rest of the system resources," said McGregor. "That's a key goal. If you want to get to true virtualization, you have to be able to partition the rest of the system. I wouldn't knock that effort."