Intel has made the shift from 32 to 64-bit computing easier for software developers, on both its and AMD's chips with an update to its development tools.
The tools now support two of its next-generation hardware technologies: 64-bit extensions and hyperthreading. Version 8.1 of Intel's compilers is a significant step in making Intel's chips with 64-bit extensions useful to businesses, the company said.
The new suite includes compilers, performance primitives, the VTune performance analyser and a math kernel library, and supports Windows and Linux operating systems - but not Sun's Solaris, although Sun has made 64-bit extensions an important part of its Solaris strategy. The tools are for software running on Intel's Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T), and also support AMD's 64-bit x86 architecture; similar tools already support Itanium (64-bit computing allows software to address larger amounts of memory).
Intel said the tools are designed to help developers turn 32-bit code into 64-bit software. "Intel offers software developers the expertise and tools for Intel EM64T to make the job easier and application performance remarkably better," said Jonathan Khazam, general manager of Intel's Software Products Division.
Intel is gradually rolling out EM64T over the course of this year. The architecture - designed to complement the Itanium's IA64 architecture, which can run 32-bit software only at a lower level of performance - was introduced this spring, more than a year after AMD began shipping its own x86-64 chips. In June, Intel launched its first EM64T Xeon server chip, followed by two-way server chips and workstation processors. Multi-processor configurations are due by the end of this year.
Software support will take far longer to appear, according to analysts: several flavours of Linux already support EM64T, but Windows support will not arrive until next year, and more arcane software such as drivers will take even longer.
Intel's tools are not the only way to develop for EM64T, but they are used by several major developers including IBM and Oracle and a few open-source projects such as Red Flag Linux and MySQL, Intel said. They are an important step in offering full developer support for EM64T, at a time when AMD argues that Intel is having to play catch-up. AMD already offers 64-bit x86 servers supporting up to eight-way configurations and one and two-way workstations, and the company says its AMD64 Opeteron uses less power than Intel's version.
The Linux version of Intel C++ Compiler 8.1 supports Eclipse, one of the most popular development environments on Linux, Intel said. The tools also work with other popular environments. The threading and thread-support functions of the compilers have been tweaked for better support of hyperthreading, an emerging coding technique designed to allow chips to handle several processing tasks simultaneously.
Intel chips have supported hyperthreading for some time, and next year the company will extend its chips' multi-tasking capabilities with dual-core processors, combining two processing cores on one chip.
Version 8.1 of the compilers for Windows and Linux will retail for $399. The Visual Fortran Compiler for Windows, Professional Edition, costs $1,399; the Windows Standard Edition $499; and the Linux edition costs $699. Intel's Integrated Performance Primitives costs $199 and the math Kernel Library costs $399. A version of VTune supporting EM64T will be available later this year for $699.