Red Hat unfurls Hammer plans

The software maker will bring out a version of its server software for the Hammer processor family from AMD, as momentum for the chip builds.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
Red Hat Software will bring out a version of its server software for the Hammer processor family from Advanced Micro Devices, as momentum for the chip builds.

Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, the dominant seller of the Linux operating system, said that it would bring out a copy of Red Hat Linux Advanced Server for Hammer, the code name for a family of desktops and server processors that will begin to hit the shelves in the first quarter next year.

Red Hat will come out with a 64-bit version of its software for Hammer and ensure that its 32-bit version will work on the chip as well. The company will demonstrate a 32-bit version of its software running on a Hammer server at LinuxWorld on Tuesday.

Software makers and others have lined up behind Hammer since the beginning of the year. In April, Microsoft said it would tune Windows to run on Hammer, while German Linux distributor SuSE said in March that it would come out with software.

More recently, IBM said it would release a version of DB2 version 8 database for Hammer and Linux. Hardware manufacturers are evaluating whether and how to include the chip in products, according to AMD executives and other sources.

"Red Hat is the biggest name in Linux software, so it is a big deal for AMD," said Kevin Krewell, an analyst with The Microprocessor Report, an industry newsletter. "They are starting to pick up the right support."

Hammer is one of AMD's most ambitious projects ever. The chip differs from existing chips in that it can read 32-bit code, the basis for nearly all software for PCs today, and 64-bit code, used by high-end servers.

Among their other advantages, 64-bit computers can manage more than 4GB of memory, the physical limit for 32-bit machines. Hammer chips will also communicate through HyperTransport, a high-speed connection developed by AMD that will boost performance.

Current Windows software will run on the chips, but developers can get more performance by taking 32-bit applications so that they will run as 64-bit applications on Hammer, a course of action being taken by Microsoft, Red Hat and others.

The 32-bit version of the chip will be sold under the Athlon name and come out in the first quarter, while the 64-bit version for servers will come out toward the middle of 2003. AMD first showed off samples of the chip in February.

Analysts have said that the chip, based on early performance data, shows strong promise.

On the other hand, AMD is only just getting established in the server world, a far more conservative market than the desktop space. Marquee customers such as Industrial Light and Magic have adopted servers based on AMD's current Athlon chip, but AMD remains a fringe brand when it comes to the corporate world. No major server maker in the United States sells an AMD-based server.