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AMD Cites Windows Server 2008 Support Efforts

AMD, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based CPU chipmaker, announced its collaboration efforts with Microsoft leading up to Microsoft's big launch yesterday. The launch signified a rollout preview of three of Microsoft's highly important enterprise tools: Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

I spoke with Margaret Lewis, AMD's director of commercial solutions and software strategy, before the Heroes Happen Here event in Los Angeles, one of the many Microsoft product launch sites. Lewis described AMD's efforts in enabling virtualization and other technologies in Microsoft's software launch products.

KM: What are the highlights of AMD's collaboration with Microsoft for this launch?
Lewis: We feel that for all of the networks that exist in the world where Windows Server 2008 and AMD Opteron are going to really shine is obviously in the area of virtualization. [Another area is] Web serving, where you want to handle lots of transactions and users, and Windows Server 2008 has itself put in some very good optimizations for handling Web serving. Also, [there's support] in the area of data analysis, like business intelligence, which is really an up-and-coming application area, especially for our midmarket customers.

What has AMD optimized in its hardware that supports Microsoft's new software products?
Lewis: Our memory infrastructure is called nonuniform memory access. Microsoft understands this memory architecture we use with our processor. They make sure that they are optimized so that when they schedule tasks to run on the processors and assign memory, that it does it [so] -- the most efficiently as possible for our architecture.

We also have some power management capabilities called AMD PowerNow. And what that does is when it's on and working, it monitors the utilization of the CPU, and makes sure that the processor receives enough power to run it at the utilization rate, but it doesn't overfeed it power…. So Windows Server 2008 supports AMD PowerNow by default.

In Windows Server 2008, Microsoft is also embedding a hypervisor for virtualization called Hyper-V. And Hyper-V uses some hardware capabilities that we have in our processors that are called AMD Virtualization, or AMD-V. What happens is that virtualization is a very complex software activity, so there are things we can do on a hardware level that we can do fast and efficiently instead of having to have the hypervisor do them. And so Microsoft makes use of those capabilities in our processor.

This underlying memory architecture that we have that Microsoft optimizes for, makes other kinds of virtualization, such as application and presentation virtualization, work well on our platform. Any time you do these virtualization activities, it's a very memory intensive activity. You take something and make it virtual and present it to another client -- that takes a lot of memory overhead. We at AMD feel our platform is an excellent one for all of this virtualization because we have this underlying architecture that can handle the demands of virtualization better.

Microsoft did have a 64-bit version of Windows XP and a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 that they released in 2005, but I think a difference with Vista, which was released last year, and Longhorn, is that these were OSes that were really developed from the ground up under the idea that there would be 64-bit versions.

When Microsoft releases their mid-market versions of Windows Server 2008 in the mid-year time frame -- they've talked about releasing a Small Business Server version -- those versions of Windows Server are only going to be 64 bit. Those versions of the OS include [Microsoft] Exchange as a component in them, and we've talked about how Exchange is only 64 bit. We are kind of moving the industry to the idea that your processor and your operating system and your underlying server functions are all going to be 64 bit…. We consider this to be the next-generation hardware and software platform -- these are the things that will help people go out and handle digital data globally.

What did it take to move to 64 bit?
Lewis: The OS and the processor are very tightly related to each other. There was work [on Microsoft's side] to make sure they could utilize that whole 64-bit architecture. When we created the AMD64 processor, we made sure that it retained 32-bit compatibility and did it without any performance degradation, so that you could immediately start using our processor with existing software without having it break anything.

Microsoft has a class of applications that benefit from moving to 64-bit -- things like databases, e-mail servers and Web servers. I'm talking about the server world -- SharePoint, Active Directory. All of those underlying servers can benefit from 64 bit because they are things that are handling the growing world of data and a growing world of users.

You can find software doing things that are reaching the limits of capabilities. So, for instance, in the world of databases, you found that 32-bit processors became limiting because you needed to have the memory addressing.

Do you meet and plan milestones with Microsoft?
Lewis: We have software engineers who live in the Seattle area and work specifically with Microsoft. They support Microsoft software efforts and then Microsoft offers to support our hardware. We do technical reviews with them. We talk about product development plans and see how things are working, how roadmaps are coinciding, what kinds of features need to come out. We also work with them on product marketing efforts, too.

AMD recently opened up its application development performance library -- what does that mean for developers?
Lewis: We provided a bunch of highly optimized routines that developers can use. These routines are highly optimized and also multithreaded so they can run well on multicore processors. And they can run on any x86 64 processors, so they can run on ours or on a competitor's processors, but we do the optimization to make sure that they run very well on AMD. And we've put them into open source.

Intel has released to open source what they call Thread Building Blocks -- some source code that would help developers as they were writing multithread code. They also have performance libraries like we do, but to date their performance libraries have been proprietary.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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