Intel/AMD CPU catchup

So I decided roughly a decade too late that the POWER/PowerPC/SPARC RISC fanboy in me probably needed to (reluctantly) accept that x86 won the war, which means I’ve been brushing up on my x86-64 assembler (by poking in head_*.S, which is correctly written in AT&T syntax, and not that other syntax I shall not name) and trying to catch up on what the heck Intel and AMD are working on in terms of roadmaps, etc. I now know how REX prefixes work on “Intel 64″, for example. And I’ve read the recent changes to the ABI (Fortran support included!). I shall poke at the recent SVM/nested page tables stuff sometime for fun. Oh, and I don’t care that I’m not an IA32 assembly guru, I shall focus on flat 86-64 and forget about last century’s segmentation and other ye olde bank switching inspired hacks.

This weekend, I’ve gone over all of the recent models and public announcements, read some IDF bits, and learned about Intel’s QPI (as opposed to the one I knew, AMD HT – QPI is basically trying to throw off the FSB, but it does some nice failover things HT does not include AFAIK). I’ve concluded that the model numbers used by these guys these days are way, way too confusing. Even more so than when I last really cared about this stuff – determining which “Xeon” has Intel-VT or AMD-V is a game of looking up lots of 4 digit model numbers where a simple naming formula somehow including reference to the microarchitecture used in the model “name” would suffice to convey far more useful information). But, none of this stuff is your grandfather’s x86. It’s every bit as capable (in x86-64 anyway) of taking on the other Big Endian arches I have always personally preferred.

I expect to do a lot more to keep up with x86 development rather than letting my own personal academic fondness for cleaner ISAs limit my exposure. I’m thinking about getting another older Xeon build/test box for playing with x86 stuff and for speeding up kernel compiles at home – perhals a used Dell PE1950 or Precision 490 as these have the best bang for buck ratio at the moment. What I would like to know, from anyone who bothered to read this far, is where should I be going to get the very latest information on x86 developments? I’m on the k.o lists, and I am specifically not a game playing weenie who cares about that stuff – I want to know about roadmaps, things like the new AES extensions, etc. I don’t care that the “whizzbang X1234 blah blah would look uber l33t in this plexiglass case I just bought on eBay”.


One Response to “Intel/AMD CPU catchup”

  1. Chris S says:

    Not sure how relevant what you’re talking about is too your day job, but if it is, you should be talking to your managers about making sure that the vendors themselves keep you up to date. Intel, AMD, etc, ought to be wooing Red Hat in some way. There is probably an account manager who could provide you access to the right person who could do a presentation, answer questions on the phone, etc. Possibly worth thinking about?

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