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Itanium as a New Processor Benchmark

With all the emphasis on bringing together the 'best and brightest' from two design giants, one might think that the process of collaboration was not only the means, but also the end. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. The project that became the Itanium processor was never an academic exercise, and far from being a 'blue sky' corporate myth. Instead, it was an extremely focused, conscious effort to put the brakes on cost and pare back layer upon layer of complexity that had crept into the RISC world. Most importantly, it was to bring value to the corporate purchaser at a level of performance that had never been seen in the IT world before.

To call the Itanium platform a rather big investment on both companies' part would be an understatement. Several years of diligent architecture and design work were committed to bring this to the marketplace. In some ways, it really does define what the architecture for the next decade or two will be, in part because you can only afford to do a project of this scope once every decade or two.

From the start, the Intel Itanium processor family was designed to effectively take the high ground and become an industry standard. Also, it was decided upon within the Intel and HP partnership that this new standard be one that could be produced in volume and made available to a number of computer system OEMS. This really highlights the scope of what was being attempted; normally, a revolutionary design is released in small quantities and then mass produced only as the performance features 'trickle down' to the mass audience.

Instead, for the team, top performance was pursued—but the goal was also to be the cost competitive market leader and the foundation for corporate computing and enterprise computing. This foundation was not one to last for just a year or two, but for the next several decades.

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