RealTime IT News

AMD Whips up Chips for Linux

SAN FRANCISCO -- AMD wooed the Linux faithful this week with its chipmaking prowess showing that it too can power the operating system from some of the smallest devices around to the largest and fastest ones.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company Tuesday said its Alchemy mobile processor, the Au1100 is now powering a new Linux-based PDA running OpenPDA from Metrowerks. The No. 2 chipmaker also began shipping its Opteron processor Model 246 for servers and workstations. The company is demonstrating both chips and corresponding systems at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo here this week.

"Opteron has the potential to push the customer set's access to 64-bit capability across the entire framework," IDC analyst Mark Melenovsky told internetnews.com. "This processor is really one of those disruptive technologies that will truly impact the x86 arena."

Hoping to offer an alternative to the proprietary PDA market, AMD demonstrated OpenPDA, a Linux technology-based software platform running on the latest version of the AMD Alchemy Solutions Mobile Handheld Reference Design Kit (RDK).

The Au1100 is a MIPS32 technology-based system on a chip (SOC) processor available at speeds of 333MHz, 400MHz and 500MHz. The chip features on-chip SDRAM, SRAM/Flash EPROM memory controllers, a LCD controller, 10/100 Ethernet controller, USB host and device, three available UARTs, and GPIOs (up to 48, 24 dedicated).

The software platform includes an embedded Linux kernel, Trolltech's Qtopia multi-language user interface, esmertec's Jeode Java Virtual Machine (JVM), and a full version of the Opera Web browser.

The company says the configuration allows for multimedia player, games, voice recording, image viewer, synchronization, browsing, and Java technology. In addition, OpenPDA offers calendar, contacts, to do list, e-mail, and text editor programs.

The new RDK is also expected to help AMD fight off advances from its main rival Intel , which produces XScale processors.

AMD also debuted new tools to help it fight on its other major battleground -- servers.

The company began shipping its AMD Opteron processor Model 246 (priced at $794 in 1,000-unit quantities).

The chip is significant no so much because of its speed or capacity, but because it is slated to power the IBM eServer 325 and one of the world's largest Linux supercomputers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). The decision by IBM raised eyebrows considering Big Blue maintains a well-developed Power processor family.

The company also said it has added AMD64 software support to Axceleon, PDF Solutions, Stata Corporation and Streamline Computing for simulation, statistical analysis and cluster computing software.

The news comes, however, as AMD tops the list of x86 "also rans" which do battle against the Intel juggernaut and, according to some analysts, is in serious danger of becoming obsolete.

A report issued Monday by In Stat/MDR suggests the remaining field of Intel's competition including AMD, Taiwan-based VIA and Transmeta has a very uncertain future in the near term.

It is widely recognized that Intel makes a very formidable competitor, and conventional wisdom would dictate that it is fool-hardy of these companies to challenge the behemoth's grasp on this market," said In-Stat/MDR analyst Kevin Krewell. "But like moths to the flame, each is drawn by the promise of riches selling x86 processors."

The study says AMD must control its chip costs by quickly migrating to 90 nanometer process in 2004. Krewell said AMD also needs to make its Opteron family a success in order to improve its overall ASP to the point where it can be profitable.

"In order to drive sufficient volume, it will need major server OEM support. IBM has made an initial box with an Opteron, but AMD will need much more than that," he said.