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Intel plays catch-up on hybrid 64-bit chips

Cliff Saran
Intel has unveiled plans to develop 64-bit extensions in future versions of its 32-bit Xeon server chip. The move follows its rival AMD's success with hybrid 64-bit/32-bit chip technology.

Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip has been deployed in high-end 64-bit servers and workstations, but AMD's hybrid architecture has been gaining popularity among server suppliers - including Sun, IBM and Hewlett-Packard - because it can also run 32-bit applications.

Future hybrid processors promised from Intel include Nocona (the future Intel Xeon processor for dual-processing servers and workstations), Potomac (the planned Intel Xeon processor for multi-processing servers) and Prescott (the future product for uni-processor servers and workstations).

Intel's 64-bit extension technology will not provide software compatibility with its 64-bit Itanium family.

The 64-bit technology for Xeon will be an extension to the existing IA-32 processor architecture and, as such, will not support the Epic architecture on which true 64-bit systems using Itanium are based.

However, Intel said its extension technology on Xeon would be compatible with the rival architecture AMD has developed in its 64-bit chip architecture.

"The two designs are entirely different architectures, but software ported to each processor will run on the other processor in most cases," said Intel.

Microsoft is currently developing its Windows XP operating system and Windows Server 2003 for hybrid 64-bit AMD and Intel systems, which are expected to be available in the second half of 2004.

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