AMD has unveiled the blueprint of its highly anticipated 64-bit processor architecture, known as Hammer,at the Microprocessor Forum in San Francisco. "This is more than just a new microprocessor," Fred Weber, AMD's chief technology officer, said in a keynote address. "This will enable a full line of server and workstation products." Hammer is AMD's first attempt at snaring a share of the 64-bit x86 processor market from archrival Intel. Because Hammer is a 64-bit processor, it is better suited to high-spec applications like 3D modelling and rendering, as well as running large databases and corporate applications such as data mining and online transaction processing. AMD's existing processors are 32-bit chips, which means they cannot address more than 4GB of RAM. A 64-bit processor, on the other hand, can address up to 18 exabytes of memory, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64, in Saratoga, Calif. An exabyte is approximately one billion GB. "There is limited demand for applications in a 64-bit instruction set, because most applications don't require more than 4GB of RAM," Weber said. However, a 64-bit x86 processor enables full support of 32-bit applications as well, Weber said. "This means your server, workstation, desktop and mobile architectures are all unified," he said. "The operating system and drivers can be the same across all of them." Hammer features an integrated DDR DRAM controller, and support for ECC memory, which checks and corrects code errors in memory, Weber said. Hammer also uses AMD's HyperTransport bus architecture, which the company unveiled in February. HyperTransport is the interface that chips on the motherboard use to communicate with other elements that aren't on the CPU (central processing unit). The technology enables data transmission between the chips inside the PC to reach speeds of 12.8Gbps. Since its unveiling, companies including Apple, Sun, Transmeta, and NVidia have announced support for HyperTransport. The first Hammer processors are expected to be available in the second half of next year.