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Itanium, .NET Feed Off Each Other

The two companies that make up the phrase Wintel are hoping to strike gold again with the release of some new developers tools this week.

Intel and Microsoft Tuesday announced a pre-release version of the Microsoft .NET Framework for Itanium 2 microarchitecture. The .NET Framework expands upon a previous set of tools available for Intel Itanium 2-based platforms running on 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

The official set of Windows, Web and .NET-connected applications for Itanium 2-based systems include Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003 operating systems, Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003, Intel's IA-32 Execution Layer (IA-32 EL), Microsoft compiler tools and Intel's performance suite of compilers, analyzers and libraries.

While the two companies have enjoyed enormous success on the desktop and on 32-bit servers, they have only just begun to make headway into 64-bit systems. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, in particular, seems to have the most to gain depending on how well Microsoft's platforms sell. Recently, they showed their muscle at the launch of Windows Server 2003 back in May. At the event, Microsoft and Intel stood on stage together and bragged about HP's latest Superdome reaching a TPC-C (OLTP) benchmark result of 658,277 transactions per second running Microsoft's OS over Intel's Madison chips.

Now the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is in Los Angeles this week drumming up support for its next Windows operating system (Longhorn), SQL Server database (Yukon) and developer tools in Visual Studio (Whidbey) at its Professional Developer's Conference.

"Microsoft's commitment to 64-bit computing is demonstrated by Windows Server 2003, Windows XP 64-bit Edition, the .NET Framework and a host of Microsoft tools for the Itanium 2 processor family," John Montgomery, director of the Developer and Platform Evangelism division at Microsoft said in a statement. "Developers now have the ability to write robust Web Services and .NET-connected applications quickly and easily while taking advantage of the power and performance of the Intel Itanium 2 microarchitecture."

To help developers streamline their "Windows" time, Intel offers a host of products including its Intel C++ and Fortran Compilers, Intel VTune Performance Analyzer, Intel Math Kernel Library, Intel Thread Checker, and the Intel Performance Libraries.

Overall, Intel has steadily been pushing its Itanium 2 processor family including its recently released Itanium 2 multi-core "Madsion" and low-power dual-core "Deerfield" processors. The company's dual-core "Montecito" (made on the 90-nanometer process) is due out in 2005. Intel said it would ship its long rumored "Tanglewood" Itanium 2 processor in 2006. The processor is expected to contain eight cores. A 16-core version is expected soon after.

When asked about the adoption rates for its Itanium line, the company says it does not reveal specific sales numbers for any of its chips. But at its last Intel Developers Conference, company vice president Mike Fister told internetnews.com that Intel now has about 700 applications designed to run specifically on the processor's architecture.

That number may soon spike as Intel gets the word out about its IA-32 EL technology. The chipmaker says the Execution Layer helps port 64-bit Itanium 2 processors to run 32-bit applications and run newer IA-32 instructions, such as SSE2.

"This is yet another example of the support and tools available to software providers itching to create highly optimized Web services applications, such as customer relationship or supply chain management, for Intel Itanium 2-based systems," said Intel Software and Solutions Group vice president Will Swope. "The Itanium 2 microarchitecture now has a full complement of production and beta tools for Windows developers, bolstering our 'port of choice' objective for high-performance, mission critical servers."