AMD officials heavily publicized a key difference between Opteron and ItaniumOpterons ability to run 32-bit and 64-bit x86 applications. Itanium is a different architecture and can run 32-bit software, but only through an emulation software layer, and not at the same performance as 64-bit applications. AMD officials said Opteron allows enterprises an easier migration to 64-bit computing, and protects the millions of dollars in investments made in 32-bit applications.At the same time, Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., at its developer conference last week announced what it had been denying for more than a yearthat its Xeon processors starting in the second quarter will come with 64-bit extensions, enabling them to run 64-bit applications as well, similar to Opteron. Most major OEMsfrom IBM and Dell to HP and Gatewayannounced support for the chips with the extensions, which go by the name Clackamas Technology. The notable exception was Sun, which said it is relying on Opteron for the 64-bit x86 capabilities. However, officials there also said they are keeping their options open. For more on Intels latest move, read "Intel Responds to AMD Threat, Broadens 64-Bit Line." There also are changes in the 64-bit Unix world, with Sun this month rolling out its UltraSPARC IV chip and IBM in the second half of the year scheduled to release Power5.
Since the launch of Opteron in April 2003, IBM has jumped on board with the e325 server and an upcoming workstation using the chip. AMD also has entered into a development agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc., which earlier this month rolled out the first of its Opteron-based systems. HP will be the third major OEM to come aboard. And while Dell Inc. officials said last week that they have no plans to use Opteron in their servers, they added that they have tested servers running the chip in their labs.