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

IA-64 is an interesting architecture that borrows from and/or extends many existing microarchitectural techniques, and also adds some new and interesting twists, but the first instantiation of the architecture, Itanium, has not been a major success to date. After waiting a few years longer than originally anticipated for the first IA-64 chip to appear (Intel publicly disclosed initial IA-64 details at Microprocessor Forum in 1997, and stated the first IA-64 chip, code-named Merced, was expected to ship in mid-1999), we saw a processor with a slower than expected clock rate, and less than stellar integer performance that catered to a very limited market. Plus initial shipments were stymied with delays from key vendors. Some commentators called Intels first IA-64 chip "Unobtanium". And not surprisingly, the catch-phase for quite some time has been "wait for McKinley, Itanium is simply a development platform". Very recently another setback occurred with Dell dropping Itanium workstations from its product lineup (see "Dell Discontinues Itanium Workstation"), possibly encouraging even more people to "wait for McKinley". But clearly Itanium is not all that bad. Floating-point performance as seen in some benchmarks is impressive today, and its large address space can certainly be useful in various high-end applications, but Intel faces a steep uphill battle trying to convince many server and workstation customers, with long histories using established 64-bit architectures, to convert to IA-64 at this juncture. Then again, Intel has swayed many customers to convert portions of their application processing to Itanium-based solutions as seen at this link. Software developers are a key target as well, and many have been on the IA-64 bandwagon for a while.
Things could improve substantially when McKinley arrives later this year in development systems and early next year in volume. We expect Intel to start seriously ramping IA-64 architecture processor shipments in selected markets within two three years. But lets not forget about AMD, who clearly appears to up for the challenge, as well see in our next segment. Also, well provide our thoughts on the rumored Yamhill 64-bit x86 "hedge your bet" technology under deep wraps within Intel development labs.
  • Itanium manuals. Be sure to explore the menu to the left of the page - it has links to lots of other Itanium reference material including some PowerPoint slides.

  • A nice quick overview of basic Itanium features can be found here.

  • A set of performance tests and a summary of SPEC test results are at this link from last summer.

  • Intels own benchmarketing results are at this link.

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 or by calling (408) 226-8086.

For additional information, visit


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