VNU Net: Intel opens up Itanium spec

By: John Leyden, VNU Net

Intel put technical specifications of its next generation 64-bit
Itanium processor on the internet today in a break from its
traditional secrecy that will allow open source developers to write

Intel had previously limited access to its Itanium Processor
Micro-architecture Reference guide to around 100 of its most
significant development partners, who obtain the information under
strict non-disclosure agreements.

But with the planned launch of Itanium, the first chip with
Intel’s 64-bit architecture, later this summer, and with the
growing popularity of Linux, the chip giant decided to publish
information without these restrictions.

IA-64 chips will be able to process 64 bits of information at a
time, whereas current processors deal with instructions that can
only have 32 bits. This changed architecture, which Intel describes
as its biggest since the release of the 386 in 1985, opens the door
to high-end systems based on Intel chips with vastly improved

Intel has developed an instruction set as part of the
architecture called EPIC (Explicitly Parallel Instruction
Computing), which marries massive processing resources with
intelligent compilers in order to make parallel execution specific
to the chip. The reference guide is therefore important because
Itanium will be far more dependent on the quality of compilers than
previous Intel chips.

Itanium is set to go into production in the third quarter with a
clock speed of 800Mhz. The next member of the IA-64 family will be
McKinley, due in late 2001.

However, analysts said the IA-64 platform needs to become proven
before it will make any impact on the market.

Clive Longbottom, service director at Strategy Partners, said a
‘hyper-scalable’ microprocessor meant little until 64-bit optimised
operating systems became available.

“Expecting improved performance with Itanium is like putting
Linford Christie’s shoes on the feet of a middle-aged man with a
large stomach and expecting him to go faster,” said Longbottom.

Enterprise users would more likely wait until the arrival of
McKinley before deploying IA-64 in product environments, according
t o Longbottom, who added that users may have to wait until 2003
for the delivery of a 64-bit version of Windows 2000.

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