So Cutler was behind Microsoft's support of AMD64. Not a bad friend to have!
Here is the AMD-specific section of that interview:
Bob Muglia delivers the Windows Server roadmap
Windows Server 2003 64-Bit Extended Systems release
BM: So we think 64-bit is a big deal.
Paul: I haven't kept up on the Itanium stuff as much as I could have, I guess, but I did go to the first 64-bit Windows reviewer's workshop that you had in Mountain View, probably four years ago or so [LINK], and I recall that the big problem, aside from performance, was that the versions of Windows you were coming out with for Itanium weren't complete, didn't include all of the features from the 32-bit versions. And then of course the performance of 32-bit applications was garbage.
JP: Both of those problems are fixed with the new 64-bit platform. If you look at the numbers today on AMD64, and then flash forward 12 months...
Paul: Sure. I mean, you can buy laptops today with an Athlon-64.
BM: You can, you can. It's not Opteron, but it's based on the same technology.
JP: It's only a matter of time before we get to the point where it doesn't make sense for a server vendor to ship anything but 64-bit machines based on AMD64 or Itanium.
Paul: So you think this platform will be bigger on the server at first?
BM: I think we'll start on the server, but it's going to move to the client very quickly.
Paul: So what are these machines looking like today? How many processors can you get in a single box on AMD64?
BM: Four-ways look great. And we'll see a lot of that over the next 12 to 15 months. It will take longer for 8-way to come out. But I think AMD64/Intel EM64T is going to be the volume platform of the future.
Paul: Oh I think so too. I think it's going to happen very quickly. Before Christmas 2005, all [mainstream] PC systems will be 64-bits.
BM: They'll all be enabled by next year. I think it will be huge on the client.
BM: One thing we've found is that 32-bit applications run better on the 64-bit OS than they do on 32-bits. Just adding a 64-bit processor and the 64-bit OS changes everything.
Paul: Now what are you comparing there? Are these machines running the same clock speed...
BM: Same everything. Same chips, same everything. We run apps on 32-bit Windows, and then take those same apps and run them on 64-bit Windows, and you'll get about an 8 percent performance improvement on average.
Intel EM64T vs. AMD64
Paul: Are you seeing any difference between AMD's [64-bit] stuff and Intel's stuff?
BM: Yes. [Smiles]
Paul: Would you care to clarify that? [Laughs]
BM: Well, AMD has done a good job ...
Paul: OK, I realize these companies are both important partners...
BM: I think both have invested very heavily... and I'm sure that customers will be happy with either solution.
Paul: All righty.
BM: Are there differences? Yes, there are differences.
Paul: OK, so how do these companies differentiate their 64-bit products?
BM: So there are some things that AMD's done that Intel hasn't done, and I'm sure Intel will continue to invest here, and will do a really good job. AMD led the way on this one. There's no doubt they led the way on this one.
Paul: Right, I thought [AMD64] was going to be the orphaned [microprocessor] of the decade, the next Alpha...
BM: Oh I didn't think so. But do you know why I knew? Because of Dave.
Paul: Dave Cutler.
BM: Yeah, Dave's been all over this. Dave worked really closely with to design the chip. He was trying to get something that was really compatible and the problem that we have is that we want to support all of our applications totally. And these chips are just fantastic for that.
Paul: It's almost like applying the Microsoft model to [chip design]. The Itanium, for all its advantages, just couldn't run the installed base very well.
BM: No, not very well.
Paul: And it never will.
Paul: So back to the core OS benefits, again, where do these figures come from?
BM: This is our own internal testing. It's pretty remarkable what we're seeing, actually.
JP: There are a bunch of address space limitations to 32-bit, and for certain functions, you just can't get enough memory. And with a certain amount of memory, all of those limitations go away.
BM: We tested a whole series of workloads. Some workloads just don't benefit that much from 64-bits, but having a 64-bit OS on there gives you certain advantages. Other workloads--even if the app is 32-bit--you get a huge benefit by running on a 64-bit OS. The most extreme example of that is Terminal Services, because it's limited by the amount of physical memory in the box, in terms of capacity. So even though it's a 32-bit application, you can now run a lot more users simultaneously on the same computer. And these four-ways are blazingly fast.
Paul: These machines we're talking about. Are they out now, or are they coming out next year?
BM: They're out now. They're AMD Opteron systems.
Paul: Physically, what is the limit on RAM in today's Opteron machines?
BM: It's a physical limit based on the number of slots in the machine. I'm not sure what that number is. I'm sure you're going to see 32 GB systems today.
Paul: Compared to 4 GB on 32-bit.
BM: Well, three really. Though we can do more with address extensions. It's funky. Kind of like the old school memory extender stuff.
Paul: Ah yes, the good old days. But wow, 32 GB of RAM this year.
BM: Sure. I mean, we've actually built Itanium systems [at Microsoft], these really big systems, with a terabyte of RAM in them.
SQL Server 2005 for 64-Bit Extended Systems
Paul: As far as software support goes... presumably, you'll have a 64-bit version of SQL Server that will run on this new 64-bit platform?
BM: We'll have a native 64-bit SQL Server when the new version [SQL Server 2005] ships next year.
Paul: What about other products?
BM: Most of them don't need to go to 64-bits, at least for the near term.
Paul: And this [Windows Server 2003 for 64-Bit Extended Systems] will ship concurrently with SP1?
BM: Absolutely. And then shortly thereafter, we'll ship a client release [Windows XP for 64-Bit Extended Systems] that's actually based on the same code base. It's interesting to ask how quickly the industry will switch over to 64-bits. We're pretty bullish about it turning over pretty rapidly.
Paul: Obviously, driver support is going to be the big problem.
BM: You know, the thing you have to realize is that, yes, that is the key issue, but there are over 10,000 drivers now running on this new operating system. So there are a lot of drivers out there.
Paul: This is like the "printing of the HCL [Hardware Compatibility List]" days from NT 4, when you'd want to have the list with you when you went to the store to see which hardware you could actually buy.
BM: Yeah, but it's not that bad, there are already 10,000 drivers converted to 64-bits. So we should have a ton of driver support eventually. And of course, there's more [drivers] than that that exist. Some drivers will never get converted, too. That four year old printer might not work.
Paul: Sure, but hopefully new hardware will be generally supported.