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February 16th, 2009 ~ by admin

Modern CPU Flops: Itanic, PowerPC, and Puma

CNet Blog nanotech recently did an article about the 3 most recent CPU design flops by Intel, IBM, and AMD.

For Intel they chose the Itanium, and Itanium 2, there is no doubt that the Itanic as it is commonly called was a failure of epic proportions. It cost to much, and ad NO decent backwards compatibility and no existing code base.  Intel of course still keeps plugging away on it.

For AMD editor Brooke chose the Puma, AMD’s much hyped and highly underperforming CPU/GPU, no argument here, it was and is a dog.

Where I disagree is the selection of the PowerPC by IBM.  While Apple’s use of the PowerPC (all 10 years of it) ultimately ended in failure, the PowerPC did find its niche in many industries.  Servers and supercomputers worldwide use thousands of PowerPC CPU’s.  IBM has created many embedded versions which are used in everything from industrial control to running printers.  IBM has also successfully license the PowerPC architecture to many other companies (over 20 at that, including a couple CPU’s running on Mars). Xilinx makes FPGA’s with multiple integrated PowerPC cores which find there way into about everything. Apple continues to be involved in PowerPC through their purchase of PA Semiconductor.

Perhaps the most well known users of the PowerPC today? The Nintendo Wii and the XBOX 360.

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3 Responses to Modern CPU Flops: Itanic, PowerPC, and Puma

  1. Henriok

    And PlayStation 3, and just about every satellite, aircraft, high end printer and half of all cars…

  2. Ian Farquhar

    Was Itanium a failure?

    Technically, it was an absolute mess. One person unkindly described it to me as what happens when you let HPC specialists design a general purpose architecture.

    But as a product, it successfully killed high-end MIPS, and put enough pressure on IBM that it seriously eroded the PPC market. Both of those architectures were viable (and superior) competitors for Intel in the high-end space, yet allowed Intel to describe these architectures as “legacy RISC”, which was a wolf-whistle which stuck.

    So as a market wedge, I’d call Itanium a major success for Intel. I’d further suggest that Intel indirectly benefited ARM in the process, although I’m sure that was entirely unintentional.

  3. admin

    I think this chart sums up Itanium well:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Itanium_Sales_Forecasts_edit.png
    Intel’s flirting with ARM is an interesting aspect. They worked with DEC to develop the StrongARM, the design of which ended up in most of Intel IOP and IXP processors as well as the PXA line, ironically not long before the smart phone explosion,, intel sold off this business to Marvell. The original designers of the StrongARM formed PASemi, which was bought by Apple, and then designed the A6 processor. Intel created a viscous beast of an ARM, in a round about way.

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