Intel linking Itanium to Java

Intel linking Itanium to Java

Sun's plans to make Itanium-powered systems could represent a big turnabout for Intel

Intel officials on Wednesday will tout intentions to enable Java to run on the company's 64-bit Itanium processor, but Sun Microsystems, for its part, is not set to build any hardware that would utilize the chip.

Intel's effort will be discussed during a keynote presentation at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Plans call for Java Virtual Machine (JVM) support for Itanium. Should Sun decide to make systems powered by Itanium, it could represent a big turnabout, since Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has been highly critical of the processor in the past. But Intel will forge on, according to Intel officials interviewed on Wednesday.

"I think as part of our relationship, they understand that Itanium is important to us," said Renee James, Intel corporate vice president and general manager. "Whether they like Itanium or not is up to them."

Sun, in its January agreement to ship Intel systems, committed to shipping only Intel Xeon systems, not any based on the Itanium 64-bit architecture.

"Xeon [support] is what we announced when we first discussed a relationship with Intel, and that's what we're going to be doing," said Bob Brewin, chief technical officer in the Sun software group. Sun still is talking to Intel about Itanium, he said.

A port of Itanium to the JVM is planned for next year. BEA Systems previously has enabled Java to run on Itanium, Intel officials said.

Intel officials also will hail work going on to bolster Java on Intel chips. "Just since we started working together [with Sun], we improved the performance of Java another 20 percent in the last few months," James said.

Sun and Intel personnel are optimizing Java by leveraging Intel's unique instruction sets, said Doug Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Intel System Software Division. Improvements also are being made to boost Java on Intel multicore processors.

"The JVM is being modified to take advantage of our underlying architecture," Fisher said. The Intel memory bus structure and registers are being accounted for in the improvements.

Improvements to Java for Intel systems will be contributed to the Java platform via the open source community.

Also, Intel officials will discuss how Intel and Sun have worked together to bolster performance of Sun's Solaris Unix OS on Intel machines. In addition, Intel is looking to ensure that Solaris supports Intel virtualization technology.

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