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Intel spells out details of Merced simulation programme

Wants to increase developer base with pre-silicon scheme

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Intel is engaged in an attempt to sign more developers up to its Merced pre-silicon development environment programme. Earlier this week, Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO, said that a Merced processor will arrive in the middle of the year 2000. Silicon samples are expected in the second half of next year. The company has around 50 companies using the Merced environment, which provides multi-processor simulation, simulates the entire platform and allows basic tuning. According to Rumi Zahir, senior computer architect on the IA-64 programme at Intel, this is the first time that his company has been able to offer a complete simulation environment for one of its CPUs. So far, the list of OS vendors publicly committed to the platform include Novell with Modesto, Digital, Microsoft with Win 64, SCO Unixware, Sun with Solaris, SGI with Irix and HP with HP/UX. Zahir said that Merced will have features built in to maximise its performance, which are also present in the pre-silicon environment. Those include an instruction address range check, a data address range check, an opcode matcher for monitoring speculative or predicated instructions, and event address registers (EARs), used to improve monitoring accuracy for branch mispredicts, cache misses and other events. Zahir said that one of the reasons for developing the environment was to allow software developers a chance to optimise their code, if necessary. The IA-64 processor software model, he said, would allow unmodified IA-32 apps to run. But, as a halfway house, software companies could recompile their applications in 32-bit pointer mode which will give them a performance kick. He said: “Some applications want 64-bit pointers, for example database programs and scientific programs.” Those companies would have a chance to re-develop their apps using the environment well before the release date. “We want to bring across the entire software stack,” he said. “You’ll even be able to run Edlin if you want to.” See also Compaq kicks Intel's Merced butt while it’s down. ®

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