AMD to target Intel 32-bit, not Itanium, with Opteron

Expects shift to 64 to gather speed

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Advanced Micro Devices Inc will steer clear of established 64-bit computing vendors when its launches its Opteron architecture later this year, and will instead aim its attack squarely at long-time 32-bit rival Intel Corp,

writes Joe Fay.

The vendor's Opteron architecture, previously codenamed Hammer, will offer customers the choice of 32-bit or 64-bit operation. The architecture will be the newest entrant to the 64-bit space after Intel, which launched its Itanium architecture in 2001, but which has yet to pick up steam in the market.

Patrick Moorhead, AMD's vice president for customer advocacy, charged that Itanium does not represent an easy transition for customers moving from 32-bit architectures. The current depressed economy makes it even less likely that customers will take a gamble on an untried architecture, he argued.

AMD claims that by offering the ability to run existing 32-bit applications, without tweaking, while also offering customers the ability to run more powerful 64 applications when they are ready, Opteron is a more palatable proposition for companies looking to make the leap to 64-bit.

Intel's commitment to the platform is under question, he claimed, following rumors that Intel has its own hybrid 32-bit/64-bit architecture under development. For these reasons, claimed Moorhead, for all Intel's marketing muscle, Itanium is "an easy target."

The fact that IBM's Power and Sun's Sparc platforms have well-established bases presumably also has a bearing on AMD's decision to concentrate its fire on Intel.

While AMD itself does not apparently want to target Sun or IBM head-on, Moorhead said he expected Opteron will compete against the more established platforms. "There will be people who will produce systems targeted at Sparc."

At the same time, Moorhead said the company was in conversations with Sun. The Solaris vendor recently launched its own x86-based Linux box, the LX50, which runs Intel made processors. Presumably AMD hopes to dislodge Intel from Sun's x86 line. Moorhead refused to comment on where its conversations with Sun were headed.

Moorhead said the shift to 64-bit computing will come quicker than anyone expects. He said that gaming was one potential market for AMD, as both players and developers looked for ever more powerful platforms. The company expects half its shipments to come from Opteron by the beginning of 2004.

Moorhead also said that Opteron would use the same naming convention for Opteron as it does on the 32-bit Athlon line. AMD uses model numbers which are designed to illustrate the relative performance of different processors in its line. This is in contrast to Intel, which puts the emphasis on the clock speed of its processors.

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