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Intel, HP Fund Effort To Boost Itanium Compiler Performance

In an effort that could boost the prospects for Intel's high-end Itanium processor, Intel and Hewlett-Packard are funding an effort to develop improved compilers capable of generating faster-running code for the chip.

The two companies are working under the umbrella of the Gelato Federation, a consortium of supercomputer centers and research organizations intent on using open-source software to field large clusters of 64-bit systems built around Itanium.

"There are two big things that will determine Itanium's future—price and performance," said Wen-mei Hwu, the compiler expert and electrical engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who's a leader of the compiler effort. "What Gelato is doing is trying to raise the performance part of the equation and bring Itanium to a wider audience. The members of Gelato are all performance-critical users of Itanium."

Specifically, work will proceed on improving two software tools: the OpenImpact compiler developed by Hwu at the University of Illinois specifically to run on Itanium, and the Free Software Foundation's more general GNU compiler collection. Commonly known as GCC, it's a multi-platform set of compilers for C, C++, Fortran and other languages.

"We're working with Intel and HP to improve the performance of GCC on Itanium," explained Hwu. "The GCC compiler has a very wide base. If you want to reach the widest possible audience, GCC is the way to go. My project is to improve the user-visible compiler technologies, whether it's improving Linux performance or applications performance."

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