Tomorrow I’m heading up to San Francisco for the second day of the Intel Developer Forum. I’ve received many meeting invitations for IDF, but have been struck by the paucity of news or announcements that would apply to software developers. The bulk of the third-party announcements have focused on storage and wireless networking. As Intel gets farther from its roots in CPUs and developer tools, the less relevant much of their ecosystem becomes, at least for me.
One of today’s announcements, one of the few that I found interesting, involved the use of dual-core processors in embedded applications. Dual-core processing will have a significant impact on the embedded/device development market, which has traditionally deployed single processors with single cores. In a hard real-time environment, using a high-end RTOS from companies like Wind River or Green Hills, or one of the hardened versions of Linux, applications must be both tight and deterministic. How well will that play in a dual-core environment, where you have multiple hardware that threads that won’t be synchronized? It should be less of a problem than with dual discrete CPUs — but it’s going to be in issue nonetheless. I look forward to learning more.
Something that I don’t particularly want to learn more about is what’s happening with the Itanium processor, which could be fairly characterized as an increasingly niche product. Sure, the vertical scalability of a high-end Itanium 2 processor can be impressive, but the world belongs to the 32-bit and 64-bit x86 processors from Intel and AMD. While RISC will still play a role, particularly with Sun’s SPARC processors, Itanium is destined to remain the poor stepchild, relegated to specific applications, like big honkin’ databases. And there’s nothing that the Itanium Solutions Alliance — a vendor consortium set up by Intel to promote the processor — has done to change my mind about that.