By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-07-08 Print this article Print

-Source Advantage"> Microsofts public betas support only the AMD64 implementation, but developers such as LSI Logic Inc. were provided code for both processor implementations several months ago, according to Luca Bert, director of program and product management for LSI Logics RAID Storage Adapter Division in Milpitas, Calif. David Young, vice president of marketing at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Marvell Technology Group Inc., a maker of gigabit Ethernet LAN chips, said the company has drivers prepared for the 64-bit chips from AMD and Intel, as well as for the Microsoft and Linux operating systems.
Developers at Infiniband IC maker Mellanox Technologies Inc., based in Santa Clara, Calif., had already been working with Intels PAE-36 technology, a stopgap method of bypassing the address limitation in 32-bit processors. Shifting to 64-bit drivers actually cleaned up some of the software, said Kevin Deierling, vice president of product marketing at the company. "Its been a really clean transition," he said.
But other 64-bit development work doesnt necessarily carry over into the work being done for AMDs AMD64 and Intel EM64T platforms. For example, when asked if Adaptec was able to leverage any of the work done with Intels 64-bit Itanium chip, Michael Arellano, a "product champion" responsible for overseeing Adaptec Inc.s SCSI products at the Milpitas, Calif., company, said no. "We didnt even touch those," Arellano said of the Itanium drivers. Although Adaptec was forced to make a number of specific driver changes for the Itanium architecture, all of Adaptecs AMD64 and EM64T work was done "on a different branch" of code. Intel says Linux drivers for its mobile Centrino chip set are due this year. Click here to read more. Adaptec is "pretty far along" on 64-bit driver development and is simply waiting for Microsofts final code for testing purposes, he said. Linux, by contrast, was a snap. "For straight SCSI products, it was pretty simple," Arellano said. "We took that embedded driver, recompiled it under the 64-bit OS, and we were done. No issues." Here, open-source OSes have an advantage. "There have been 64-bit Unix implementations for over 10 years, which gives the Linux camp a bit of an advantage," said Peter Glaskowsky, former editor of The Microprocessor Report and now an independent analyst. "They were all fairly low-volume platforms, though, and generally supported only on proprietary hardware. The Windows market has tens of thousands of devices that were never supported under any 64-bit Unix or Linux implementation, so theres certainly much more work to be done on the Windows side." Thats not to say that open-source implementations have gone flawlessly. One 64-bit Linux distribution that is currently shipping "doesnt work," LSIs Bert said, a flaw he said he expects to be fixed soon. Betas for MandrakeSofts Mandrake distribution and Gentoo, among others, also run with limited functionality, technology site has reported. Red Hat began shipping its own 64-bit OS with support for AMD64 in October. Most enterprise chip vendors said theyve reworked their drivers to take advantage of native 64-bit code paths, rather than simply rewriting the software to address the additional address space. The latter choice, which AMD internally calls "True 64," will likely be the direction of enterprise vendors, observers said. So-called "Easy 64" implementations designed for extra addressability may be the route PC device manufacturers take. Some vendors have already published their 64-bit beta drivers for the public to test, although they arent officially supported by the manufacturers themselves. Graphics-chip makers ATI Technologies Inc. and rival Nvidia Corp. have published beta code to their respective Web sites, and updated drivers supporting their latest chips will be available in the coming weeks, officials at both companies said. ATI, based in Thornhill, Ontario, currently lacks a 64-bit Linux beta. "This is something we are currently working on and anticipate having a beta release available before the end of the year," spokesman Jon Carvill said. The bottom line, however, is that driver manufacturers cant ship code until after Microsoft. "Were gated by the OS," LSIs Bert said. Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses. Editors Note: This story has been corrected to indicate that Red Hat began shipping its Linux operating system with support for AMD64 last year, and clarified to specify the limits of 64-bit addressing.


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