Intel Works to Improve 32-Bit Experience on Itanium

Intel has begun popularizing a technology that will improve the performance of the Itanium on 32-bit code.

Intel has begun popularizing a technology that will improve the performance of the Itanium on 32-bit code. First publicly disclosed at the Intel Developer Forum in February, the IA-32 Execution Layer is a software layer designed to accelerate 32-bit code on the 64-bit Itanium. On Wednesday, Intel officials said the software would be released this fall, close to the release of Intels 64-bit Madison processor.

Although the Itanium contains hardware support for 32-bit code, the processor runs 32-bit instructions poorly. AMDs Opteron, on the other hand, has been touted as a hybrid 32-bit/64-bit processor, able to run code from each instruction set well.

However, the IA-32 EL, as its known, wont be heavily promoted. Intels enterprise processor positioning will continue to emphasize processors optimized for a particular instruction-set architecture, whether it be the 32-bit code executed by the Xeon or the 64-bit code executed by the Itanium line. The IA-32 EL will be offered as a transitional tool designed to assist customers interested in 64-bit systems, but who are forced to support some older 32-bit applications.

"I think that we see this as if you want to run 32-bit apps, theyll run on Itanium 2 (with IA-32 EL)," said an Intel spokesman. "But if you want to run 32-bit applications with world-class performance, you want a Xeon. If what you want is to run 64-bit (code), Itanium is what you want."

A good example of Intels positioning can be found in the Unisys ES7000/560 server, which eWEEK reported Monday and is scheduled to be announced on Thursday with the official launch of Microsofts Windows Server 2003. The server, which starts at $250,000, mixes up to 32 Xeon MP 32-bit processors in the same chassis with up to 32 64-bit Itanium 2s.

"Our positioning is to place all three tiers of the server infrastructure in the same box," said a spokesman for Unisys. The co-location allows IT administrators to reduce the number of servers they need to manage, and allows each processor to handle the applications best suited for it, he said.

The IA-32 EL has been under development for several years, according to the Intel spokesman. During that time, Intel has worked with both Microsoft and Linux developers Red Hat and SuSE to include support for the IA-32 EL in their 64-bit OSes. No public details have been released on how Intel plans to deploy the IA-32 EL tool, the Intel spokesman said.

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