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Chipping Away At Virtualization

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are moving their rivalry to a new front: microprocessor-assisted virtualization. While software-based virtualization is proving popular in some business data centers, the virtualization movement is expected continue this year and next as chipmakers include technologies in their processors to make the creation of virtual computers easier. AMD got an edge on Intel last week by making a technical specification for input/output virtualization available in an attempt to establish an industry standard.

Intel has had Virtualization Technology in its Xeon MP processors since November, while AMD plans to add its version of the technology, previously named Pacifica, to its processors later this year. By early next year, it's expected that nearly all x86 processors for both PCs and servers will have embedded virtualization capabilities.

Built-in virtualization technology will help address performance bottlenecks and security issues that can occur when using virtualization software, says Ben Williams, AMD's VP of marketing. The AMD spec will be available through royalty-free licenses.

"This is a big step forward," says Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64. "And if you're going to build in the capability for this I/O virtualization into devices like graphics cards, you're not going to want to do it twice. So if AMD can get the industry to close in around its standard, it could create a problem for Intel."

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