AMDs Weber: Dump Everything but X86

AMD's chief technologist said in a speech Wednesday that architectures like the Itanium, Sparc, MIPS and ARM should all be tossed on the trash heap of history. Can you spot the irony?

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s chief technologist Fred Weber argued Wednesday that all of the different microarchitectures in the industry should be given up in favor of X86 processors.

Webers speech, delivered at The Microprocessor Forum here, preceded a number of presentations by embedded processor designers known for their balkanized instruction sets—one of which, AMD itself has licensed.

Microprocessor designers have historically taken widely varying approaches to processing data. Some designers, such as Transmeta Inc. co-founder David Ditzel, helped design the first processors using the Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) model in 1980. Since then, several unique derivatives have been developed by companies like MIPS Inc., ARM Ltd. and Motorola Inc. Most PC processors, by contrast, use the most popular version of the Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC), the X86 instruction set. Each processor designer then designs a processor to process a specific instruction set in the most efficient way possible.

Webers argument is that supporting and designing for a variety of disparate instruction sets is similar to supporting the numerous currencies that made up pre-European-Union Europe. Consolidating on a single currency saved the EU approximately $36 billion per year by eliminating the time spent in converting from currency to currency, Weber said, even though currency conversions are a relatively simple mathematical operation.

Likewise, porting software from one architecture to another is complex, rare and costly, Weber added. With a few exceptions—Microsoft Corp.s productivity applications and various Web browsers—applications generally reside on a single platform. By consolidating on a single instruction set, the entire industry could save time and cost, he argued.

Click here to read the rest of this article.