AMD Preps 64-bit Processor

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. is expected to releasedetails today concerning its forthcoming 64-bit “Hammer” architecture. UnlikeIntel Corp’s Itanium, Hammer chips will continue to use the x86 instructionset, allowing full interoperability with software written for current 32-bitprocessors.

AMD will host a conference call this afternoon, afterthe financial markets close, at Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, Calif. Hammerchips are expected to ship sometime next year.

This is not the first release of architectural detailsfor Hammer. In order to drum up developer support, AMD has made regulardisclosures of the architecture, so programmers can create compilers andoptimized software for the chip.

Intel introduced the x86 architecture in the late1970’s with its 8086 processor, used in the first IBM PCs. Intel has carriedthe instruction set through its lines of general purpose processors though thePentium 4 generation. When it began development of its 64-bit processor, itdecided to throw out the aging architecture, sacrificing compatibility forperformance. In order for software to run natively, it must be compiled for theprocessor.

AMD took a different approach when designing Hammer. Itdecided to keep the x86 instruction set to preserve compatibility – softwarewritten for 32-bit processors can run natively on Hammer. While Itanium istargeted primarily at server systems, Hammer is expected to make its greatestimpact on workstation systems.

AMD also released faster versions of its Athlon MPprocessor. The Athlons MP 1500+, 1600+, and 1800+ are designed fordual-processor workstation and servers, running at clock speeds of 1.3GHz,1.4GHz, and 1.53GHz, respectively. AMD does not plan to take its chips beyond2-way configurations until the release of Hammer.