Intel is positioning the 64-bit Itanium as a competitor to such high-end chips as Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc, but faces the task of convincing developers to come up with entirely new operating systems and software. Though Itanium can run 32-bit software of the kind used with processors such as the Pentium III Xeon, it is so slow that the old software is effectively useless.
Server-level software of the kind that typically runs on Linux will be essential for Itanium's success. For that reason, Intel has been backing Linux development for Itanium. In June the chip manufacturer released a Linux simulator so that developers could test Linux applications for the new processor.
In May Intel unveiled a reference guide disclosing an unprecedented level of detail about Itanium's workings in an effort to gain the interest of Linux developers.
Itanium was originally scheduled for the second half of this year, but was recently pushed back to the first half of 2001 because of the need for continued testing. (See Interactive Chip Roadmap for more details.)
Sixty-four-bit computing accelerates computer performance by allowing the processor to handle larger chunks of data. Intel has heralded Itanium as the most significant development since the introduction of the 32-bit 386 chip in 1985.
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