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Intel Props Up Itanium's Stinky 32-bit Performance

Intel Props Up Itanium's Stinky 32-bit Performance

Intel's apple cart was discommoded the other day when somebody tipped off CNET to the fact that it's been working for the last year and more on a piece of emulation-style firmware, code named btrans, and formally called the IA-32 Execution Layer, that's supposed to improve Itanium's truly wretched execution of 32-bit apps.

It isn't that it was a state secret or anything. In fact, Intel did a session on it at the last Intel Developers Forum. It's just that it would have preferred that attention not be drawn to it right when AMD was launching its hybrid 32/64-bit Opteron chip, which - unlike the Itanium - is supposed to run 32-bit apps with gusto.

Considering the drubbing Itanium's taken for its inadequacy, and the fact that AMD's been able to exploit it, Intel should probably have started talking the thing up months ago. Might have saved it market inhibitions about the Itanium and undercut AMD's speech about gradually transitioning to 64-bits without chucking your 32-bit software. Both Opteron and Itanium need freshly written 64-bit programs.

Anyway, the Execution Layer module is supposed to turn up in the new 1.5GHz Madison - at or near release - and let it run 32-bit software about the way a 1.5GHz Xeon MP would. Of course, it depends on the program. Intel says performance improvements can range between 10% and 100% and it goes for both Microsoft and Linux operating systems.

Since we're calling attention to little-known or remembered facts, we might as well point out that the Xeon chip, despite popular misconceptions, isn't limited to supporting only 4GB of memory.

No, siree.

It's got these here Physical Address Extensions (PAE) - had them for years - that support 64GB just like the 64-bit Itanium and they're supported by both Microsoft and Linux - has been for a couple of years - both Windows 2000 and the new Windows 2003, come to think of it. Sounds like a safety net in case Itanium doesn't pan out, doesn't it? PAE does, however, present another way to skin a cat.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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