Intel’s History Lesson

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Over the last year I’ve had a strange and growing sense of deja vu about the hype surrounding the upcoming introduction of a new Intel processor architecture. It took me a while but now I figured out why. Before I explain why I will tease you with some quotes from Intel representatives and various members of the technical trade press:

The _____, up to now known as the ____, sets a new benchmark in supercomputing applications … Not RISC, but RISC-like

We don’t view RISC as an architecture but rather as an idea, claims Bill Rash, microprocessor marketing manager at Intel … But Rash goes on to explain that the ____ departs from pure RISC ideas in many ways. As an example he cites the extensive floating-point hardware, which takes up about a third of the die area

Intel has dropped a bomb on the work-station market … the chip threatens to leave work-station marketplace competitors in the dust …The chip’s commercial debut is bound to light a fire under developers of RISC-based systems

it has been designed for multiprocessor operation, so the company has multiprocessor Unix development under way to support it … meanwhile original-equipment-manufacturers – IBM Corp. is probably among them, are already designing systems with the chip

We were concerned about the number of designers willing to recompile applications to take advantage of the capability of the ____ says Rash. But the level of performance improvement the chip offers, in some cases a 50-times boost in floating-point capability, motivates software developers to recompile

Just how did Intel come up with this impressive chip? In a design as complicated as the ____, there are a number of intricate relationships between circuit design, architecture, and the manufacturing process says Albert Yu, vice president and general manager of the component technology and development group. What we have that others do not is a design that is tuned to the semiconductor process, and we believe we are ahead in __ micron CMOS technology.

By now you have probably guessed all these comments are about Intel’s soon to be released Itanium (a.k.a. Merced), the first member of a family of IA-64 processors under development. However, you would be wrong. These comments are about a processor that Intel introduced eleven years ago for the exact same reasons that Intel developed IA-64, to grab a huge chunk of the technical and large-scale server computing market. The attempt eleven years ago failed miserably. Ominously, some of the characteristics of the original Intel “super chip” that contributed to its failure are present and even more pronounced in IA-64.

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