Aiming to ease the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit CPUs, Intel plans next year to introduce an IA-32 processor that will fit into the same slot as the IA-64 Merced, according to one industry analyst and other sources.
The processor, which currently has the code-name Tanner, "is designed to bridge the gap between the company's high-end x86 products and Merced," says Linley Gwennap, the publisher and editor in chief of Microprocessor Report, in Sunnyvale, California.
This new processor "is said to incorporate an x86 processor core, probably [Intel's] Katmai, along with an interface to the so-called Slot M interface that will be used by Merced," Gwennap explains.
The processor would let users buy IA-32 systems that are "Merced ready," and upgradeable if the user's needs change, Gwennap says.
However, according to one executive with a hardware OEM who asked not to be named, Intel would only rely on such an interim chip if its 1999 target delivery date for Merced slips.
"It's a contingency plan," the executive said.
Gwennap expects Tanner to offer better performance than systems using Slot 2, which is the IA-32 interface for multiprocessor systems.
Gwennap also expects Slot 2 to double in speed to 200 MHz next year, but that would only result in a peak bandwidth of 1.6G bytes per second.
"While this performance is likely to satisfy the needs of most systems in that time frame, high-end workstations and multiprocessor servers can make good use of the greater bandwidth of Slot M," Gwennap says.
Intel does not comment on unannounced products.