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Jerry Huck

Architect for the New Millennium

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Spring 2001

Jerry Huck, the angular intellectual who worked as lead architect on the Itanium™ processor family specification now focuses on making HP-UX its application platform of choice. He still brings his encyclopedic knowledge of the instruction set to bear in this new field, but he can't help missing the low-level mathematics.

"I really do miss the math, sometimes. We were looking at PA-RISC the other week, and for some reason it was important to what we were doing that we had a floor function - something that represents the largest integer closest to or equal to the number you are working with. I was just thrilled to have this problem to solve and then make it run as fast as possible."

His current work with application development may not be as mathematical, but it is as important to the success of the Itanium processor family as his work was with the original instruction set.

Jerry puts it like this: "Everyone is expecting a good job with the technology and the architecture, but they also want to know more about how it will fit in as a total solution.

"People recognize that we have good processor technology, and they recognize that we have a great design team. They see that we have Intel and their supply chain behind us, and that's a very strong story too.

"But as momentum builds around Itanium™ it is important to have a broad environment built around it. Software and application availability is crucial. This is why we are introducing systems built around the Itanium™ processor with more maturity than has typically been done before with new architectures.

"We are bringing it out as part of a complete solution, with all the work that that entails."

The IPF specification was carefully designed as part of a larger system and solution, and the design goals reflected this. Careful thought on the requirements of the future went into the architecture and the low-level interfaces between the hardware and the I/O subsystems, or the chipsets, or the software.

"One of the things we were and are trying to do at an architectural level is make it very easy to implement a multi-OS strategy so that HP-UX, Linux, and 64-bit Windows NT would all see a common definition.

"This is very exciting because it opens the possibility that one day you could have a machine with several different partitions running several different environments."

And we must not underestimate the importance of having an architecture that has longevity. The IPF specification leaves lots of leeway for evolutionary growth in the hardware.

"Of course, the instruction set ensures forwards compatibility, so that applications which will run on Itanium will also run on the next generation of processors. It is part of the evolution of all architectures that new instructions get added over time, so for optimal performance a recompile will occasionally be necessary, but the fundamental approach remains the same and the basic compatibility will be there as we move forward."

Jerry Huck considers it an honor to have had the chance to work on an entirely new architecture and he is rather excited about the way it has captured the interest of the industry media and ISVs alike.

"When we introduced PA-RISC, there initially wasn't a lot of interest from the industry media until we promoted it to our customers and showed them what it could do. This time around, there is tremendous attention around the Itanium processor family and a lot of interest in it.

"We are striving to rise to the challenge of that interest. I can't stress this enough - the amount of industry involvement and engagement in the IPF is really unprecedented for a machine that is not yet being shipped.

"There are more lines of code running on this, more applications ported, and more operating systems ready to go, than on any other architecture I know of before its first shipments.

"Only the x86 has this breadth of software ready for it, and it is already a mature specification. As maturity grows in the software and hardware, the IPF specification will become an extremely successful architecture.

"It is important to understand how much momentum is running behind the IPF to get a sense of its importance in the future."


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