CNet has a summary of AMD’s latest analyst meeting, including details on future chips: > On the high end, AMD will release chips with two processing cores in 2005 and then follow in 2006 with chips based around a new chip core code-named Pacifica.

The company is relatively tight-lipped about Pacifica, but said it will be a dual-core chip that also contains virtualization technology–which allows a computer to run multiple OSes–and a security technology called Presidio. Pacifica will appear in desktops, notebooks and servers in 2006. AMD says it will also come out with a new ultra low-power chip for notebooks.

The article also mentions that Intel has been talking about virtualization lately. Considering that PCs have been fighting with virtualization since the 386 was first introduced, I’m amazed that it’s taken 20 years to get full-blown virtualization support in mainstream PC chips. Anyone who’s been around PCs for a while remembers the whole mess with 386–they could run multiple DOS programs at the same time, given a decent vm86 environment, like Desqview or Windows/386–but as soon as you tried to run something that needed 286- or 386-specific features, the whole house of cards came tumbling down, because the 386 couldn’t virtualize itself. Neither could the 486, Pentium, or any of the other x86 chips that have shown up since then.

Of course, we’re better at cheating now: programs like VMWare and Xen have shown that it isn’t really that hard to work around the CPU’s virtualization problems, but you end up paying a price. With VMWare, it’s performance; with Xen it’s patching the guest OSes to not use specific CPU instructions.

Even once that CPU’s been virtualized, the hardest part remains: virtualizing the rest of the machine. Xen’s approach is very open-source centric: they require the guest OS to be ported to Xen, including Xen-specific drivers, rather then emulate specific PC hardware in the virtual machine monitor. Long-term, that’s probably the most reasonable way to handle things, at least in the open-source world.

I’m looking forward to AMD’s new offerings. Pity we have to wait more then a year for them.