In a move to protect its investment in the 64-bit Itanium processor family, Intel is working with operating-system makers to deliver a software emulator for 32-bit apps. Intel, Microsoft, and several Linux developers plan to make IA-32 Execution Layer available in the operating-system software during the second half of this year.
IA-32 Execution Layer will take 32-bit code and convert it to 64-bit code that the Itanium processor can run, an Intel spokeswoman says. Intel expects the software to boost the performance of 32-bit code running on Itanium to roughly equivalent to that of a 1.5-GHz Xeon processor.
Intel had been developing IA-32 Execution Layer for about a year and introduced it during the company's February Intel Developers' Forum, the spokeswoman says. The 32-bit support is a mechanism for companies to run their 32-bit apps as they migrate to 64-bit, she says. It's not intended to make 32-bit the primary function of Itanium.
Earlier this week, Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. formally launched its Opteron server processor, which supports both 32-bit and 64-bit apps.