Itanium backers work to boost GCC

Programmers from Intel, Hewlett-Packard and the Gelato Foundation have begun an effort to improve GCC, a programming tool used to produce Linux and countless other open-source source software projects, so that software runs faster on Intel's Itanium processors.

Compilers translate software written by humans into instructions a computer understands. More so than other processors, the design of Itanium puts responsibility for high performance on the compiler. So far, though, GCC hasn't been fine-tuned to produce good Itanium software, according to the foundation, which is devoted to improving Linux on Itanium for technical computing tasks.

At a recent meeting, compiler experts settled on three technologies to improve GCC, Gelato said in a statement Wednesday. But the work isn't for the faint of heart: The three areas are superblock scheduling, rotating register support and memory disambiguation.

More comprehensible are the aspirations. Software should run 5 to 10 percent faster with the first improvement, 2 to 30 percent faster with the second and up to 10 percent faster with the third. And the changes should speed software on non-Itanium processors too, Gelato said.

The programmers stay in contact with the main GCC developers and hope to have their changes accepted into the forthcoming version 4.1 of the compiler.

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