Page Two

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-04-09 Print this article Print

Asserting that Itanium sets a new standard for floating-point mathematics, the authors assert that "a 64-bit wide number that an Itanium-based system can handle obviously holds many more levels of precision than a 32-bit number used by RISC machines." Perhaps thats why 80-bit floating-point registers have been used for two decades, for example in Intels own 8087 co-processor that many AutoCAD users plugged into their first-generation IBM PCs. There is a core proposition that distinguishes the Itanium from its competitors and its predecessors. Intel has gambled that the best way to get ahead of the complexity of on-chip instruction-scheduling hardware, which seeks out opportunities for parallelism on the fly, is to find those opportunities when a program is compiled and place parallelism in the code ahead of time: hence the Intel moniker EPIC, for "explicitly parallel instruction computing," that defines the genuine difference between Itanium and what has come before.
In asserting EPICs advantages, though, the authors over-reach. They spend all of Chapter 4 telling us that Itanium is needed to meet the demands of "utility computing" as a service delivered through heterogeneous, highly distributed systems. But they tell us in Chapter 15 that Itaniums advantage over other architectures comes from the EPIC compilers ability to "make global optimizations" as it runs through the entire stream of code that performs a task. When the code that performs a high-level task is residing on many different systems and created and maintained by many different parties, however, any advantage based on global analysis seems suspect; the pre-Itanium alternative of seeking parallelism opportunities on the fly seems intuitively more likely to pay off in such an environment.
Publishers warn aspiring authors that a book has to be thick enough for its spine to display a title that can be seen by prospective buyers as they scan a bookstores shelves. Itanium Rising shows the symptoms of a worthwhile vendor white paper being bulked up to 198-page book length, including 26 pages of prefatory material, definitions of terms, and index. My recommendation: if you want an Itanium sales pitch, dont buy a $30 book; let a sales rep buy you a $30 lunch that youre sure to find more substantial.
  • Title: Itanium Rising: Breaking Through Moores Second Law of Computing Power
  • Authors: Jim Carlson, Jerry Huck
  • Publisher: Prentice-Hall
  • Length: 204 pages
  • Price: $29.99

    Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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