Opteron Could Bridge 64-Bit Gap for SMBs

By John Moore  |  Print this article Print


Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers

Opinion: In providing a 64-bit transition vehicle for 32-bit users, Opteron may emerge as an valuable "general-purpose platform" for SMBs, Contract Watch columnist John Moore finds.

The most disruptive IT trends in 64-bit computing are occurring not at the high end of the market, but rather on the "low and middle ground."

That's the view of a recent report from The Sageza Group, a technology market analysis firm. Charles King, the report's author and research director at Sageza, contends that the key developments in 64-bit computing have been "sparked by processors that can natively support mixed 32- and 64-bit environments."

He cites IBM's Power 970 processor as the first of those innovations. But King sees AMD's Opteron processor, launched in April 2003 and employing x86 chip technologies with 64-bit extensions, as the most influential of such hybrid solutions thus far.

"In essence, Opteron natively executes both 32- and 64-bit-enabled operating systems and applications, which provides x86 users and developers a fluid multiple timeline migration path to 64-bit applications," according to King's report. King likens 64-bit extensions' hardware disruption to Linux's impact in the software market.

King believes that AMD's products have resulted in growing opportunities for vendors, developers and end-users. He notes that the price and performance of Opteron-based systems makes them a natural for 64-bit experimentation as well as for "possible larger migration efforts."

And in providing a 64-bit transition vehicle for 32-bit users, Opteron may emerge as an important "general-purpose platform" for SMBs (small and midsized businesses), according to King.

This brings us to the channel question. What role will resellers and integrators play in a 64-bit computing market, where formerly high-end solutions may become feasible for SMB customers?

King says he hasn't seen any OEM or vendor specifically address this issue. Yet the involvement of AMD's OEMs and their partner networks may prove a significant factor.

"How AMD's OEM partners promote Opteron in the market will be critical to its success, and some of those players have a larger SMB presence/channel than others do," King said.

Companies to watch in this regard include Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

"I think HP has a real opportunity here, both because it has been aggressive in promoting Opteron as a general-purpose computing platform and that the company has had a good deal of success in offering bundled solutions," King says. "IBM has been pressing forward in the SMB space, and it would be interesting to see if [and] how they deliver Opteron solutions."

But the real issue, in King's opinion, will be whether channel dealers and integrators view Opteron as a way to leverage new business.

"Right now, with Microsoft's 64-bit Opteron/EM64T OS still a few months away, Opteron's purely a 32-bit or Linux play, so many channel and SI players—who tend to be pretty conservative in their business approach—may currently see it as more experimental than practical," King said. "I would expect that to change as more commercial 64-bit options become available and Opteron's value as a migration platform becomes increasingly evident."

Resellers and integrators enjoy an advisory role with their smaller customers, who have little time and scant personnel to scour the computing landscape for emerging technology. So, channel players may prove pivotal in advancing 64-bit extensions among SMBs. Whether they do so remains to be seen, but it's a development that bears watching.

Check out eWEEK.com's Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

John writes the Contract Watch column and his own column for the Channel Insider.

John has covered the information-technology industry for 15 years, focusing on government issues, systems integrators, resellers and channel activities. Prior to working with Channel Insider, he was an editor at Smart Partner, and a department editor at Federal Computer Week, a newspaper covering federal information technology. At Federal Computer Week, John covered federal contractors and compiled the publication's annual ranking of the market's top 25 integrators. John also was a senior editor in the Washington, D.C., bureau of Computer Systems News.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...