Intel Drops 32-Bit Support in Montecito

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2006-01-30

Intel is removing the hardware circuitry in the upcoming next-generation Itanium 2 chip that lets users run 32-bit applications on the 64-bit processor, leaving those duties to the chip makers emulation software.

The dual-core "Montecito" chip will be the first Itanium processor not to offer the hardware circuitry, said Intel spokesperson Erica Fields.

The IA-32 Execution Layer, which was introduced into Itanium more than two years ago, has proved to be better performing and more flexible than the hardware-based feature.

Intel put the 32-bit capabilities into Itanium to help developers and users migrate their 32-bit applications to the 64-bit platform.

While Itanium can run 32-bit applications, the performance is not at the same level as 64-bit applications.

"After talking to a number of end users, we found that running 32-bit applications [on Itanium] was not a common usage model," Fields said.

Intel engineers decided to remove the 32-bit hardware circuitry to free up the silicon real estate for other technology, such as dual-core, Hyper-Threading and on-chip virtualization.

Montecito will be the first Itanium processor to offer such features as dual cores and the Intel Virtualization Technology.

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