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Intel sheds light on 64-bit plans

Feb 16, 20044 mins
Cellular NetworksIBMNetworking

Focus on mobility, talks about 64-bit extension technology set for Developer Forum

Intel plans to use its Developer Forum this week to unveil products and lay out its technology road map aimed at giving businesses tools to run more complex applications faster.

CEO Craig Barrett is expected to open the event Tuesday with a keynote address that includes the latest on the company’s plan to bring 64-bit extensions to Intel’s x86 chips.

The event, located in San Francisco, will include 16 product announcements from Intel, ranging from high-speed wireless interconnects to updates to the Xeon processor to technology to create digital homes, a spokesman says. More than 100 third-party vendors, including Dell, HP and IBM, also will make announcements. Show organizers expect about 4,800 people to attend.

While the event traditionally has been hardware-focused, this forum will include a Solution Conference aimed at software developers and IT managers looking to see how technology can be applied to address specific issues.

Discussions will revolve around technologies for vertical industries such as radio frequency identification in the retail markets and mobile computing in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, says John Davies, vice president of the sales and marketing group and director of the solutions market development group at Intel.

But most of the news will come out of the Systems Conference. While a spokesman would not confirm or deny reports that Intel was planning to demonstrate 64-bit extension technology for chips using the x86 instruction set, he did say “the subject will be brokered.”

The technology would enable 32-bit processors to run 64-bit applications.

Will Yamhill emerge?

While rumors have circulated for some time regarding an x86 64-bit technology within Intel, dubbed Yamhill, this would be the company’s first public acknowledgement that such efforts are underway. In an interview with Schwab Soundview Capital Markets last month, Intel President and COO Paul Otellini said that when the market for x86 64-bit extension technology arrives Intel “will be there.” But he indicated that he didn’t think that time had come.

Still, analysts say they wouldn’t be surprised to see Intel focus on this area as Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) gains support for its 32-/64-bit Opteron processor.

Wade Phillips, technology/IS manager at Shakopee School District in Minnesota, would welcome some sort of extension technology in HP’s x86-based ProLiant systems, whether that be Opteron or Intel.

“I have long been a customer of HP and would like to see them develop and implement a similar type of program that would bridge the gap between the applications that run in my environment today and the applications I will be installing tomorrow,” he says. “It will be very hard for the public and private organizations out there to completely buy into a 64-bit architecture without any backwards compatibility.”

IBM and Sun already have rolled out Opteron-based systems, and HP says it recognizes a demand among its customers for some type of x86 extension technology and is assessing its options in this area. Currently, Opteron is its only choice.

“If Intel announces Yamhill, it’s clearly a reaction to AMD,” says Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. “Opteron has become enough of a threat that Intel appears to have finally decided that it can’t afford to keep sitting back and ceding Xeon share for the benefit of a clean Itanium-standard 64-bit story.”

Analysts say that 64-bit extension technology wouldn’t necessarily be a detriment to Intel’s 64-bit Itanium chip because the processors are geared for different workloads. Itanium is competing for heavier throughput computing needs now handled by RISC chips.

“I would expect Intel to be very careful about positioning Xeon and any sort of 64-bit extensions in a way that cannot be perceived as a threat to Itanium,” says Charles King, an analyst with The Sageza Group. “It will be interesting, though, to see exactly what’s in the box. AMD has some patented goodies under the hood that only they own and it will be interesting to see what kinds of goodies Intel is planning. Just because they’ll both be hybrid x86 chips doesn’t mean they’ll be the same.”

Other areas Intel will focus on include wireless and interconnect technologies. The company will unveil its ultrawideband architecture, which is part of wireless USB and uses a wide frequency to transmit data at rates faster than Wi-Fi. The company also will lay out its road map for the PCI-Express serial I/O bus architecture. And it will make its first demonstration of “advanced switching” technology, the company says.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

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