AMD, Intel, IBM, and Sun continue the innovation
For observers of the microprocessor sweepstakes, 2006 will be remembered as the year the empire struck back, the green CPU grew, multicore trickled down, Power shifted, a new public SPARC was lit, and an industry-altering merger put coprocessors, and AMD’s marketing, back in business.
AMD still maintains a formidable technological lead over Intel with the on-chip HyperTransport I/O bus and DDR2 memory controllers, server scalability up to eight sockets, and dedicated Level 2, massive 64KB Level 1 data, and instruction caches per core. In sum, AMD’s advantage over Intel is near-constant parallelization, over which IT has gone nuts, kicking Opteron servers to the top of the food chain, where they will remain. To get the broader market excited about parallelization, AMD has coined a term, megatasking, to describe a working style enabled by AMD’s massively parallelized architecture, and it’s counting on Vista to enlighten desktop users; Windows XP treats an AMD64 system like any other x86-64 chip. AMD closed the year with a demonstration of its quad-core Opteron server CPUs, which will be its first 65-nanometer chips and which will maintain the power consumption and thermal design profile of AMD’s dual-core CPUs.
As x86 advanced, RISC grew no moss. IBM Power5+ competes neck and neck with Sun UltraSparc IV+ in big iron Unix servers, and Power continues to lead in RISC workstations. PowerPC has found a stable home in power.org, an alliance formed to develop standards for commercial and open source PowerPC CPU implementations. Freescale joined power.org late in 2006, reuniting it with IBM after the contentious split that nixed the best potential alternative to x86. But there’s still reason to hope: In 2006, PowerPC won the triple crown as the foundation for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft gaming consoles, and PlayStation 3 already runs Linux.
With its massively scalable dual-core UltraSparc IV+ driving its top dog RISC big iron and AMD’s turbocharged Opteron below, Sun took first place in UNIX servers from IBM in 2006. Sun’s 32-threaded UltraSparc T1 is also open source and green beyond compare, but so far, less effectively evangelized commercially.
The year saw Intel backpedal to a far better CPU architecture, restoring its marketing swagger. AMD had trouble getting its parallelization advantages seen through Intel’s fog of war, but quad-core, 65 nanometer, Vista, and the ATI acquisition will set that right. IBM and Sun are simultaneously setting standards for high-performance and green computing in Power and UltraSparc, and their open designs put an x86 alternative within distant reach. 2006 stands as proof that in platforms and architectures, vendors see that markets won’t settle for status quo.
You may be better off sticking with Win7 or Win8.1, given a wide range of Win10 trade-offs and...
Those of you who signed up for the Windows 10 upgrade but changed your mind may be able to crawl out
New sources are stepping up questions about Oracle's stewardship of the Java development platform
Independence has its upsides and downsides. IT pros lend firsthand advice on the challenges of going...
As Internet growth approaches hyperspeed, security will get worse before it gets better
Fast, safe database access; quick, clean Web frameworks, no-fuss cross-platform GUIs -- these libraries...
A study of 10 popular mobile payment apps found they lack even the most basic security controls