AMD signs Swedes to build better SledgeHammer sim

Transmeta passes on deal, suggests alternative...


AMD today announced a new simulator that will allow coders to test their software for AMD's upcoming 64-bit Hammer family of CPUs long before the chips ship. AMD describes the new sim as "high performance", clearly a reference to the sludginess of its previous effort.

And here's the thing: AMD's helper on the new sim is Swedish software developer Virtutech and not, as expected, Transmeta.

The new x86-64 sim isn't yet available - AMD simply wanted to tell the world it's working on one. VirtuHammer, as the sim will be called, is a version of Virtutech's Simics emulation code.

AMD has send VirtuHammer to "targeted software partners", so it's clearly not ready for public consumption, but the chip maker wants key software developers - ie. Microsoft and... er... Microsoft - to get it as soon as possible.

Why Microsoft? Apart from being the developer of the one piece of software any x86-compatible CPU - be it 32-bit or 64-bit - is almost guaranteed to have to run, it is believed to be the coding company that most got stroppy over the poor performance of SimNow!, VirtuHammer's predecessor.

As we understand it, SimNow! attempted to emulate an entire Hammer-based computer, whereas VirtuHammer simulates the processor alone. No wonder AMD claims the new sim runs at more than a hundred times faster than SimNow!

The Transmeta connection follows from SimNow!'s poor performance. AMD needed to find a better sim, it already had a technology relationship with Transmeta (see AMD talking to Transmeta - official) therefore Transmeta was using its code-morphing expertise to help AMD come up with a superior simulator.

Except it probably wasn't, it now emerges. We say 'probably' because AMD's relationship with Transmeta is ongoing, and it's certainly plausible that Transmeta gave AMD some pointers.

Indeed, as Transmeta CEO Dave Ditzel says on Virtutech's own Web site: "We've known the research group that founded Virtutech for many years... Virtutech and Transmeta have similar technical roots, since the code morphing technology in the Crusoe family faces similar challenges as when implementing a fast simulator such as Simics."

And Peter Magnusson, Virtutech's CEO and who, incidentally, this reporter once chatted with over lunch at Microprocessor Forum, little knowing this is where the dude would end up, is described by Ditzel as a "Friend of Transmeta".

So it's not hard to imagine Transmeta telling AMD, 'You need to talk to these guys...' ®

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