HP, Intel christen 64-bit architecture

Intel trying to build momentum with early disclosure

By Torsten Busse, IDG News Service, San Francisco Bureau

October  1997
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San Jose, CA (October 14, 1997)-- Move over RISC and CISC. EPIC is coming.

Intel Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. at the Microprocessor Forum today offered some details on the new 64-bit instruction set architecture which is the foundation of future microprocessors that will hit the market some time in 1999.

Officially dubbed the Explicit Parallel Instruction Computing Technology, Intel's and HP's 64-bit processors intend to merge the instruction sets of today's Complex Instruction Set Computing and Reduced Instruction Set Computing processors into one processor. This will allow processing of Windows-based as well as Unix-based applications by the same central processing unit.

Compared to CISC and RISC, EPIC does not follow sequential instruction processing, but rather increases performance by predicting and speculating which functions to process.

EPIC reduces the number of branches, or processing paths, and branch mis-predicts to perform at a much higher rate than today's CISC and RISC processors, executives from Intel and HP said.

Another advantage of the 64-bit architecture is that EPIC technology reduces the effects of memory-to-processor latency.

Intel plans to come to market with its first 64-bit processor, code-named Merced, in 1999, and is already working on Merced's 64-bit successor which will appear on the market in 2001, said Fred Pollack, director of processor planning for Intel's microprocessor group.

The second-generation Merced processor will offer twice the performance of Merced. It "will simply blow your socks off," said Pollack.

Intel expects that multiple operating system databases, PCs and high-end applications will appear on the market at the same time Merced ships, he said.

Intel will position its 64-bit processors at the high-end server and workstation market, and at the same time continue to support and develop 32-bit-based processors, Pollack said.

Over time, Intel expects a transition from 32-bit processors to 64-bit processors in the high-end workstation and server market.

The enhanced 32-bit processors Intel will produce will be targeted at all segments of the market, including desktops, mobile computers and servers, according to Pollack.

HP and Intel officials reiterated their claim that 64-bit processors will be fully backward-compatible with 32-bit applications and operating systems.

Asked why Intel is talking about processor technology that is a number of years away from reality, Pollack said his company is interested in building momentum to ensure that when 64-bit processors appear complete systems -- hardware, operating systems and applications -- will be on the market.

For its part, Microsoft Corp. plans to produce a native 64-bit version of Windows NT which will mark Windows NT's entrance into the high-end data center market, according to a Microsoft official.

HP, meanwhile, will continue to develop its PA-RISC processors for several years, leaving it up to its customers to decide when to transition to 64-bit applications and systems, HP officials said.

A number of systems manufacturers, including HP, Compaq Computer Corp., Sequent Computer Systems Inc. and NCR, have pledged support for the 64-bit architecture and expect to roll out products when Merced appears.

Others lending support to the 64-bit architecture today included:

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