Will the Intel/AMD settlement solve virtualization compatibility issues?

Intel will pay AMD $1.25 billion settlement and agree to a set of business practice provisions to end litigation

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) are calling a truce and burying the legal hatchet with one another. In a move to clear up a long-standing allegation that Intel has abused monopoly power to thwart competition, Intel will pay rival chipmaker AMD the sum of $1.25 billion to settle all outstanding legal disputes.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company, but said it decided to settle the lawsuit with AMD rather than risking the possibility of much larger damages awarded by a jury. The deal also helps both AMD and Intel save on legal bills that have already stretched into the millions of dollars, and perhaps it will also give the two companies more time to focus on innovation.

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In addition to the payout, the two companies also announced a five-year cross-licensing agreement that gives the companies access to each other's key chip technology. While I wouldn't bet on any broad collaborations between the two companies, one can hope that this new cross-licensing agreement could help answer some of the problems found in the server virtualization market.

You may not notice much of a difference between installing a Linux or Windows operating system on top of either a physical AMD- or Intel-based server, but there is a big difference and cause for potential problems when you are implementing a virtualization platform. While the hypervisor itself doesn't necessarily care if it is being installed on top of an AMD or Intel host server, problems come about with virtual machines installed on these host servers later if applied in a mixed environment.

Live migration technology has quickly become one of the key enabling technologies found within a modern hypervisor platform. With it, a virtual datacenter gets the added bonus of business continuity and disaster recovery by being able to quickly and easily move a virtual machine from one server to another without any down time to the end-user or the application.

However, there is a problem -- there usually is, right?  This capability doesn't extend itself to servers operating in mixed mode with CPUs from different chip vendors. In other words, it won't live migrate a virtual machine from an AMD-based server to an Intel-based server or vice versa, one of the reasons being that these two chip vendors have slightly different CPU instruction sets and different model-specific registers (MSRs).

While the lawsuit settlement doesn't explicitly mention anything about virtualization, the thought of a common virtualization instruction set from these two chip giants would be quite appealing for the virtualization platform vendors and their consumers. We can hope, can't we?

Would you be more likely to implement a mixed CPU vendor environment in your datacenter if this were the case?

This story, "Will the Intel/AMD settlement solve virtualization compatibility issues?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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