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Advanced Micro Devices, who pioneered 64-bit capability on x86 processors, said at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, taking place February 15-17 in Boston, Massachusetts, servers based on AMD64 processors running Linux or Windows operating systems will be capable of the so-called virtualization technology using Xen from XenSource or Microsoft’s Virtual Server and Virtual PC software; providing new levels of security and robustness.

XenSource was recently founded to develop and support an open-source infrastructure virtualization technology, Xen. The Xen hypervisor, a high-performance, x86 virtual machine monitor (VMM), enables a single machine to run multiple operating systems efficiently while maintaining secure, resource guaranteed isolation between them. AMD also said customers can use other VMMs to enable virtualization on systems running Microsoft Windows operating systems.

“AMD is focused on ensuring that all of the popular virtualization solutions are supported and optimized for execution on AMD processor technology. Customers can run virtualized Windows today on AMD Opteron processor-based servers, for example, using Microsoft’s Virtual Server and Virtual PC products. VMware also has software available that allows Windows to be virtualized today on AMD Opteron processor-based servers,” Steven McDowell, Division Marketing Manager, AMD Strategic Marketing, told X-bit labs.

XenSource requires modified versions of operating systems. Xen provides special ports for Linux 2.6.9 and 2.4.27, as well as NetBSD, with FreeBSD and Plan 9 ports planned. The most recent versions of the ports do not hit performance significantly, according to various reports. A port for Microsoft Windows XP has also been developed by XenSource, but the company does not reportedly ship it due to licensing restrictions. It is unclear whether XenSource VMM requires any special drivers from third-party hardware, or can work with typical drivers.

XenSource’s Xen VMM does not require any functionality from processors; neither multi-threading, nor multi-core, not special enhancements like Intel Vanderpool. Furthermore, the actual hardware configuration is not that important for virtualization.

“Dual-core is not required for virtualization at all. AMD’s dual core implementation, leveraging our Direct Connect Architecture, does provide higher levels of efficiency for virtualized applications,” Mr. McDowell said.

“The hardware configuration required is not driven by the virtualization software, but rather by the workload the user is applying to the server. Some types of applications will require more memory, for example, or different I/O configurations. This is no different from tuning any other system for optimal performance,” Mr. McDowell added.

In order to enable more efficient server virtualization, AMD plans to introduce in its next-generation AMD64 processors, presumably in 2006, “Pacifica” technology. Pacifica will provide underlying support for virtualization solutions and is planned for future single-core and dual-core AMD64 processors that will further leverage the performance of 64-bit virtualization software.

Rivals IBM and Intel Corp. are also preparing technologies that could enable virtualization on servers and desktop, but both rely on special circuitry inside their chips, whereas AMD offers solutions fuelled by software.

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