Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has pushed back the release of its first 64-bit processor designed for multiprocessor workstations and servers, codenamed Sledgehammer, from the second half of 2002 to early 2003.
At its annual fall analysts meeting Thursday, AMD revealed new processor roadmaps that showed that while the first incarnation of its 64-bit Hammer architecture, codenamed Clawhammer, was still on track for introduction late next year, the dual-CPU chip set for Clawhammer as well as the multiprocessor Sledgehammer processors wont be released until the first half of 2003.
Dual- and multiprocessor workstations and servers account for the most lucrative segment of the commercial computer market, and processor prices and profit margins are far greater than in the PC market, where AMD currently sells most of its chips.
Overall, AMD is counting on its Hammer architecture to finally persuade major U.S. computer makers to incorporate its chips in commercial systems. While AMD has gained a secure hold in the consumer PC with its 32-bit Athlon and Duron processors, rival chipmaker Intel Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., holds a virtual lock on the commercial PC and server segment with its 32-bit Xeon, Pentium 4 and Pentium III chips.
AMDs Hammer design, however, could alter the commercial landscape. One key feature of the Hammers architecture will be that the chip will not only be capable of running 64-bit applications, but it will also be able fully compatible with 32-bit Windows based programs.
That flexibility would be unique among 64-bit processors, and could prove attractive to companies that are in the early stages of transitioning their workloads from 32-bit to 64-bit application environments.
AMD Chairman Jerry Sanders underscored the importance of the new processor during the companys earnings call last month when he was asked what the companys top three initiatives were for next year.
"Hammer, Hammer, Hammer," Sanders replied.
But at the companys annual fall meeting with analysts in Sunnyvale, Calif., on Thursday, Sanders admitted that AMDs challenge isnt just getting the chip to market, but winning over major computer makers, as well.
"At the end of the day, we need to get a Compaq, Dell or HP," he said. "IBM is going to be tough."
But one analyst said that while hes impressed by the Hammer architecture, he doesnt hold out much hope that AMD will gain the acceptance its seeking.
"The reality is that if the HP and Compaq merger goes through, who will AMD be able to sell it to?" said Kevin Krewell, an analyst with Cahners In-Stat/MDR, in Sunnyvale. "HP helped design Intels 64-bit Itanium, so we know what theyll be using. Dell uses Intel exclusively. So that leaves IBM, which is unlikely because the company utilizes so many different architectures already."
As a result, he said, AMD will likely end up selling its 64-bit processors to the same small vendors, or white box makers, it currently deals with.