64-Bit CPUs: What You Need to Know

By Jim Turley  |  Posted 2002-02-11 Print this article Print

In this first of a three-part series, we'll take you from the genesis of IA-64 through the present day of Itanium, to the future: McKinley, Madison, and Deerfield. Then on to Hammer, PowerPC, SPARC, and more.

Its the peak, the top, its the Mona Lisa. Its the $64,000 Question: what processor will dominate 64-bit computing? Sixty-four bits holds the promise of new performance, new architectures, new compilers, and a new balance of power in CPU realpolitik. A clean break with the old, a new chance for the new. What hardware or architectural changes are in store for 64 bits? Quite a lot, although few of them have to do with 64-bittedness, per se. But 64-bit processors are at todays very high end, and they showcase all the best thinking in microprocessor design. This is the cutting edge, where silicon manufacturing, computer architecture, compiler technology, and marketing wizardry all come together. In the words of Calvin and Hobbes, scientific progress goes "Boink!"
For most of us waiting breathlessly on the sidelines, the 64-bit battle is between Intels IA-64 and AMDs Hammer architectures. Separately, well evaluate the pros and cons of the "other" 64-bit processors used in workstations and servers, such as SPARC, Power, MIPS, and Alpha.
In this first segment of our 64-bit computing series, well launch into the wonder that is IA-64. Youve probably seen much information already written about Itanium and IA-64 architecture in the past few years, which is mostly a replay of Intel-generated information. Well try to get beyond the standard facts and hype, and take a critical look at Itanium and IA-64/EPIC, by describing features and delivering some critical analyses. Well set the stage for an architectural comparison with Hammer and other 64-bit architectures in future segments. To be clear, this 64-bit computing architecture series is not performance testing focused. Its architecture focused, and discusses long-term potentials. We will, however, point you to a few Itanium performance studies on the Web.

Jim Turley is a semiconductor industry analyst, editor, and presenter working in Silicon Valley. Focus technologies are 32-bit microprocessors and semiconductor intellectual property (SIP).

Most recently Jim was the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Technology at ARC International plc (LSE:ARK), where he set the Company's strategic direction and guided its technical developments at five locations worldwide. With headquarters in London (UK) and development centers in New Hampshire, Canada, and California, ARC International is an innovative leader in the semiconductor IP (intellectual property) industry.

Previously, Jim was senior analyst for MicroDesign Resources (a unit of Cahners/Reed Elsevier) as well as the Senior Editor of the prestigious industry journal Microprocessor Report (a three-time winner of the Computer Press Award), and Editor-in-Chief of Embedded Processor Watch. He also hosted and directed the yearly Embedded Processor Forum conference, the industry's annual showcase for new microprocessors. As an analyst and editor, Turley consulting with leading semiconductor firms, providing informed advice on technology trends and market requirements, and was often called on to participate in new product reviews, strategy sessions, and technology development for large semiconductor companies.

Turley is the author of six popular books including Advanced 80386 Programming Techniques, the best-selling PCs Made Easy and others published by McGraw-Hill and Academic Press. He's served as technical editor for several of McGraw-Hill's computer and programming books. In addition, he was a regular technology columnist for Embedded System Programming, Computer Design, and Supermicro magazines, and contributed articles to dozens more. Earlier in his career, Turley held engineering or marketing positions at Adept Technology, Force Computers, TeleVideo, and other high-technology firms in Europe and the United States.

Turley has created and presented numerous seminars and training sessions around the world covering technology trends and the competitive microprocessor market. He is also a well-known speaker at industry events such as the Embedded Systems Conference and Microprocessor Forum, is frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News, and has appeared frequently on television, radio, and Internet broadcasts. Jim volunteers for Recording for the Blind and recently earned his amateur auto-racing license. He has a talented and stunningly attractive wife, two overachieving children, an apparently brain-damaged dog, and an opossum living under the house.

Jim can be contacted at info@jimturley.com or by calling (408) 226-8086.

For additional information, visit http://www.jimturley.com.


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