Intel offers sneak peek at Merced

Intel continues to try to entice developers to adopt its IA-64 platform, whose first member -- Merced -- is due mid-2000.

At an invitation-only event held recently for software developers, Intel showed a prototype of a four-way Merced server with 64GB of memory. Sources say Intel showed a diagram of the machine at its Fall Intel Developers Forum in the U.S. and also has run software simulations of four-way Merced servers. Intel would not comment, other than to say that Merced's design is ongoing.

Developers say the server looks suitable for hosting Web and application servers and for caching static content like product orders, which would make it useful for e-commerce. Some developers say that Merced systems will require two to three times the amount of memory of PC servers because of the way the Merced compilers function, although data throughput will be faster.

Intel last week also announced the first five investments from the IA-64 fund, as well as two new corporate members. Boeing and Enron have joined the $250m (£152m) fund, which includes Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, among other systems vendors, and several corporate members.

Intel is already an active venture capitalist, but the IA-64 fund is a first. It is meant to work like Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers' Java fund, with recipients getting corporate contacts and marketing help in addition to money. In return, fund members support IA-64. Intel plans to bring everyone together twice a year.

Intel is taking the unusual step of announcing the fund's investments. Three of the first five investments-Extricity Software, SpeechWorks International and WebLine Communications-are companies in which Intel already has invested, and most support Java. Intel also invested in TimesTen Performance Software and Monterey Design Systems Inc. "Java has slashed the cost of supporting additional platforms and has insulated us from a lot of headaches," says Bob Weinberger, VP of WebLine, which makes speech-recognition software for NT and Solaris that spares customers from having to use phones to navigate a menu of options.

TimesTen VP Tim Shetler says he values Intel's endorsement over the fund's money. TimesTen makes an in-memory database that speeds relational database operations and struck a technology agreement with Intel in March. "They need software like ours to make their 64-bit environment a unique and important distinction, and there are no strings attached," Shetler says.

Take me to the Merced Special.