Stories by Tom Yager

There'll be something for everyone in 2007

Some Decembers, I look to the coming year and pray that I can earn my keep on the unpredictable visits from my muse that result in a departure from some of my more done-to-death subjects. It’s something of a relief to leave 2006 behind, a year in which I spent loads of time yelling into the wind that Intel, despite its best work to-date, is further behind AMD than ever.

Quad FX promises to make mega-tasking easy

AMD has coined a buzzword: mega-tasking. I’m still not positive what AMD means by it, but I’d use it to describe the work-style of those on the verge of needing second desktops or workstations to accomplish their heavy mix of foreground applications and background tasks. I estimate that a genuine power desktop is replaced on cycles of eight months to one year. This rapid cycle is exactly what motivated us to find server consolidation solutions, and we’re getting to the point where desktop consolidation is needed.

Novell-Microsoft deal an ominous development

Microsoft has intentionally rendered unsafe all but one path to heterogeneity — that being the use of Novell’s SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) in networks with Windows. By immunising Novell against future intellectual property actions, Microsoft has tacitly notified other players in commercialised open source that Microsoft sets the rules for Windows interoperability from now on.

Virtualisation raises some security issues

It’s a pity that discussions on the subject of security vulnerabilities associated with virtual servers tend to focus on Windows: if a virtual machine is running as a guest on a Windows host, an exploit on the guest VM can climb up to the Windows host, and then all hell can break loose. There’s more to securing virtual servers than not running VMs as guests of a Windows host. If cyber-felons gain local or remote access to a VMware Virtual Centre console, your world is their oyster. This seems like a fairly obscure potential risk — Virtual Centre is pretty easy to lock down — but are there other risks unique to virtual servers?

Deeper rabbit holes will result from virtualisation

Virtualisation is designed to render differences between systems irrelevant, but this is a good-news/bad-news arrangement. The good news is that ICT can treat every server as an x86, with all x86 systems being standard. The bad news relates to the new difficulties we face in diagnosing and treating serious but non-fatal illness when virtualisation covers the source of the problem.

Apple’s push into the SME market is most welcome

Apple gave up on Xserve G5, its 1U rack server, more than a year ago and with it, its drive to gain share in the enterprise server market. Why? I speculate that Apple’s enterprise programme took so long to get off the ground that by the time success was within reach, the market had moved on.

Legal stoush looms between Intel and Transmeta

Intel’s legal staff might as well buy homes in Delaware. That’s the venue for AMD’s anti-trust action against Intel. This month, Transmeta petitioned the Delaware Federal District Court to find that Intel has violated ten of Transmeta’s patents. The killer patent of the group is the one granted to Transmeta in August. It relates to adaptive power control, which Intel claims to have mastered in its Core micro-architecture.

SIMD — the closeted genius of the x86

The outlandish requirements of gaming and media applications have not only changed the way PCs are configured they have also driven an expansion of the x86 instruction set and on-chip registers that practically creates a CPU within a CPU (or a core within a core).

Getting to the core of the processor wars

Let me ask you: if your wildest dreams were realised, how many cores per CPU would you have in your servers, workstations and power desktops right now? How much Level 2 cache memory would you have in each core, or would you rather it be shared amongst the cores? Would you rather have memory controllers for each pair of cores that access a set-aside block of memory, or one memory controller that sees the entire address space?

Mass uptake signals new beginning for IT

To the extent that it’s possible, I’m declaring today the start of recorded history in information technology. On this day, the phrase “information technology,” abbreviated to IT, came into being as shorthand for electronic devices that aid humans in the storage and sharing of, analysis of, protection of, and access to significant amounts of digitised content. Content? That’s anything you’re capable of holding in your brain for even a nanosecond. IT is not a department or a group of people. It’s a smart phone. It’s a room full of SPARC servers. A telephone headset? A keyboard? I don’t know. They’re new terms. We’ll work that out as we go. I do know that if we didn’t have such things, information technology would be inaccessible.

Sun rises once more in the server market

Inexplicably, we have got through much of 2006 without Linux completely kicking Unix out of the market. Analysts and Linux faithful are at a loss to explain how Sun Microsystems’ server revenue climbed almost 14% since the second quarter last year, pushing Sun ahead of Dell in the rankings. Gartner pegs Sun’s Unix server market share at 56.9%.

BSD-driven OS X is pure music to users’ ears

My city’s symphony orchestra is marvellous. In a lesser setting any of the orchestra’s musicians would be a marquee soloist, front and centre. But as an orchestra, about 100 consummately talented artists become one. The visual spectacle and the sociology of an orchestra is the reason I go to the symphony rather than buy the CD.

Microsoft enters development management jungle

The application lifecycle model, as Microsoft expresses it in Visual Studio 2005 Team System, forges a path familiar to participants in global-scale projects but which has never been scaled down for small to moderate efforts.

AMD’s advantages over Intel not imaginary

A reader recently shot me a note saying that after studying some of my work related to Advanced Micro Devices, he has spotted a pattern: I always side with the underdog. This reader crystallised the prevalent viewpoint, one expressed by most of my colleagues, that AMD has achieved its market success by dumb luck, with the “dumb” supplied by Intel. The theory is that Intel discovered too late that NetBurst was, well, everything I’ve always said it is, and hubris born of market domination left Intel without a Plan B.