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AMD's New Architecture: It's More Than Just 64-Bit Extensions

To outsiders, the hallmark of the AMD64 hybrid 32/64-bit architecture is its 64-bit instruction set extensions. But to company executives, that's only a small part of the story of the Opteron server processor and its cousin, the Athlon 64 desktop chip.

"When we looked at AMD64 technology, we looked at more than just the instruction set and the memory addressability," says Patrick Patla, Opteron marketing manager at AMD. "We looked at all the features of the system architecture and enhanced those to make sure that they were going to be in line to take full advantage of the 64-bit extensions."

That complete package is called the Direct Connect Architecture (DCA), in AMD parlance.

Most immediately apparent are the extensions, which enable software applications to take advantage of a set of 64-bit addressing and data registers on board the chips. The wider addressing registers enable the processors to exceed the 32-bit memory limit of 4 GB. That makes the processors ideal for use by large-scale database and server applications.

But a crucial element of DCA is the ultra-fast memory controller AMD has placed on board the chips.

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