With the release last year of its AMD64 technology, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. made it possible for 32-bit applications to run natively in 64-bit operating environments and address more than 4GB of memory, greatly increasing application performance and scalability. At the time of the release, Intel Corp. was promoting its Itanium architecture and downplayed the significance of 64-bit capabilities on the x86 architecture. But Intel changed its tune with the introduction last month of its Xeon-based Extended Memory 64 Technology.
eWEEK Labs side-by-side tests of the architectures showed that both perform well and let IT managers make efficient use of current applications while paving the way for 64-bit capabilities. We tested IBMs xSeries 336, the companys first server based on Xeon EM64T, and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Opteron-based Sun Fire V40z.
Whether you run or walk to this technology, however, depends on your industry and organizational needs. Although applications such as those for scientific research, high-end databases and digital-media creation can take advantage of the new hardware, few mainstream applications support 64-bit address spaces, and Linux is the only operating system currently supporting 64 bits. Although it has pledged support for AMDs and Intels processors, Microsoft Corp. has delayed the release of a 64-bit Windows until next year.
Intels first EM64T processors and chip sets are designed for two-way systems. Later this year, the company plans to update its Xeon MP platform to bring EM64T into the four- and eight-way space. EM64T is compatible with the AMD64 architecture, which will make it easier for software developers to create operating systems and applications that support both platforms.
The Intel architecture offers next-generation chip sets that give systems better performance, including a faster (800MHz) FSB (front-side bus) and support for DDR2 (double-data-rate 2) memory. Intel also added support for new I/O technology called PCI Express.
Its still too early to predict the outcome of the platform war between Intel and AMD. Applications that stress memory bandwidth will likely run better on Opteron-based systems, due to the higher memory bandwidth the Opteron has between CPU and RAM. Floating-point (integer) applications will fare better with faster CPU speed, which gives the Xeon EM64T the edge (at least for now).
Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at [email protected]