IBM Backs AMDs Opteron Processor

Company planning to port an upcoming version of its DB2 database to the 64-bit chip.

IBM is lending advanced Micro Devices Inc. support—and much-needed credibility—for its upcoming 64-bit Opteron processor, announcing last week that its popular DB2 database will be designed to work with the chip.

While Opterons release is still months away, AMD is already marketing the chip to software developers to ensure future versions of business applications will be designed to work with the processor. In particular, AMD is lobbying leading software makers, such as Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., whose backing would likely cinch the support of smaller application developers.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., provided the chip maker just such a boost when it announced that it would port an upcoming version of its DB2 database to the chip. Last year, DB2 was the top-selling database, ahead of Oracle Corp.s Oracle9i, in new-license sales, according to Gartner Dataquest, in San Jose, Calif.

IBMs pledge of support follows Microsofts vow in April to develop a 64-bit version of Windows for use with Opteron. The backing of the software companies will likely ensure that many smaller application developers will follow suit.

While AMD is building industry momentum behind its chip, one enterprise customer was skeptical about using the processor, which lacks the broad software and hardware ecosystem available with 64-bit servers from market leaders IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

"Lets see. Im supposed to use an AMD system with new SuSE [Inc.] Linux software and IBMs DB2 applications? That doesnt sound too attractive," said Chuck Kramer, vice president of IT services at Social and Scientific Systems Inc., in Bethesda, Md. "Id prefer to use a company that could offer a more complete solution."

The upcoming version of IBMs DB2 will enable 32-bit, x86-based applications to directly access DB2s 64-bit database environment. That design takes advantage of Opterons key selling point: its ability to run not only 64-bit applications but also existing 32-bit business software.

By contrast, Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium processor features a new architecture, making it largely incompatible with 32-bit applications.

"The fact that you can run DB2 means that the chip is going to be taken more seriously as a high-end processor," said Tony Iams, an analyst with D.H. Brown Associates Inc., in Port Chester, N.Y. "The DB2 announcement drives home AMDs message that you can use one chip that can run both existing 32-bit applications well and be used for high-end enterprise-type applications."

AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., also contends the swiftness with which IBMs DB2 software was ported to its Opteron processor—in just two days using a 64-bit SuSE Linux operating system—also underscores the advantages of its chip architecture.