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Itanium and Opteron Pit Power Against Compatibility

Meanwhile, in Sunnyvale, Calif., AMD has changed its market image and quietly made headway in the enterprise market it has long coveted, producing a backward-compatible processor with all the benefits of 64-bit technology.

What went wrong for Intel? Will AMD continue to capitalize on this rare moment in business history? Stay tuned; plot twists abound.

The Itanium EPIC

The Itanium processor is Intel's designated successor to the x86 architecture processors that fueled the personal computer revolution in business. Intel teamed up with Hewlett-Packard to develop this chip as a next-generation architecture, beyond both x86 and RISC.

The series, which includes the Itanium and Itanium 2 processors, uses an architecture called EPIC (Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing). EPIC combines instruction-level parallelism with prediction and speculation. That is, it works by doing many things at once, and by predicting a program's processor calls and having the instructions available as each call is made. The compiler makes decisions and some predictions with regard to parallelism, creating VLIWs (very long instruction words) that can be executed in parallel. Parallel execution lets the Itanium perform much more work per clock cycle, so the processor's clock speed is no longer the defining performance characteristic.

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