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Intel programming tools edge forward

Oracle will use Intel's compilers--one of several steps Intel is taking to improve the software's utility.

Database giant Oracle has chosen Intel to supply crucial programming tools called compilers for creating software that runs on servers using Intel processors. The move is one of several steps Intel is taking to improve the software's utility.

Oracle will use the compilers for versions of its software that run on the Windows and Linux operating systems using Intel 32-bit processors such as Xeon and 64-bit processors from the Itanium line, Intel said Wednesday.

Compilers translate higher-level software written by humans in languages such as C into instructions that a computer can understand. The quality of a compiler has a direct bearing on how fast compiled software runs, particularly on the Itanium family of chips.

Oracle's decision goes against the grain of most Linux programming today, which uses the open-source GCC compiler. On Windows, Microsoft's Visual Studio tools are very popular, though the software can accept Intel's compiler as a plug-in.

In addition, Intel said its new compiler, version 7.1, can create software optimized for its new Pentium M processor. The Pentium M, a chip with low power-consumption features and a part of Intel's Centrino products for wireless laptops, has differences from both the older Pentium III and the current Pentium 4 families.

Intel's C++ compiler costs $399 for Windows or Linux; the Windows and Linux compilers for the Fortran language costs $499 and $699, respectively.

Compilers are used to build not just higher-level software such as databases, but also to build foundational packages such as the operating system. But for the heart of Linux, called the kernel, it's been difficult to compile software using anything other than GCC.

Intel has been working to make its own compilers more compatible with GCC so that it can respond to customers' desires to build the Linux kernel with the Intel compilers.

"Building the Linux kernel with the Intel C++ Compiler is an ongoing project at Intel. The goal is to improve GCC source compatibility and to find opportunities to improve kernel performance," Intel said in a paper on its Web site.

Version 7.0 of Intel's compiler has been used to build Linux kernels, but only with special modifications to the kernel, the paper said. Intel hopes to eliminate those modifications by modifying its compiler and by working with the Linux programming community to change some features of the kernel. For example, Intel programmers have submitted kernel patches to permit use of the Intel compiler.