Sources close to AMD have reported that first real silicon is expected for its 64-bit microprocessor, codenamed Sledgehammer, as early as next month. Engineering samples of the chip are already with large PC customers.
That news is likely to horrify Intel executives who were forced to admit last week that delivery of its Itanium processor slipped a quarter, due to unspecified difficulties.
One source said that AMD's "lightning data transport" (LDT) is the real key to the performance advantages expected when silicon samples ship.
AMD's 64-bit processor, which maybe should be codenamed Iceberg if Intel's chip does turn out to be the Itanic, will not require massive operating system and application software porting exercises.
According to rumours, and we stress there is no hard evidence for this as yet, within the community of chip architects in Silicon Valley last week, Intel is readying an alternative 64-bit platform in case it is forced by circumstances to follow AMD's strategy.
That work may be carried out by the group of Intel architects in Oregon who worked on the Willamette platform. As we have reported here previously, there is little love lost between that team and the Santa Clara based team which developed the Merced-Itanium platform.
One chip architect working for a third party firm said that if Intel decided to take this action, it resembled the i432 project the firm eventually canned, after it saw some light which made it invent the 8086 microprocessor. Two engineers at Intel managed to cobble together the 8086 in a mere three weeks. The rest is history... ®