The fact that AMD's new Opteron processor runs 64- and 32-bit code with ease highlights a key shortcoming of Intel's current 64-bit Itanium processors. The Itanium's performance with 32-bit code is horrendous, but according to this article over at C|Net, that's about to change.
The new software approach, called the IA-32 Execution Layer and code-named btrans, will give the forthcoming 1.5GHz Itanium 2 the ability to run 32-bit software about as fast as a 1.5GHz Xeon MP, Intel spokeswoman Barbara Grimes confirmed.If Intel succeeds, the Itanium 2 will be better-equipped to compete with AMD's Opteron, but the latter will likely remain a much cheaper option.
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