Merced+ (was Re: bloatware)

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 7 Jul 1999 19:58 PDT

> Mike Linksvayer <> said:
> On Wed, Jul 07, 1999 at 03:40:00PM -0700, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
> > Ever consider that one reason for the delay in the introduction of
> > Merced might be the fact that they believe it may be "the last
> > processor you ever need to buy"?
> No. Merced will be lucky to be much faster than the fastest x86 cpu when
> it gets around to shipping. The danger to Intel is definitely not that
> Merced will be so fast nobody will ever want another cpu.
I suspect that the marketing people, may have used both of our arguments as justifications/rationalizations for the delay.

The technical reasons for the delay are more complex I suspect.

I've seen some presentations on the Merced's out-of-order execution schemes and their compilers (and since I've written compilers, I can to some degree judge the difficulty of what they are trying to do...). They are having a difficult time getting the compilers to work (and not take a week to compile a program). Since what the compilers are able to do feeds back into the hardware architecture, you can't completely cast the hardware in stone until the software is done.

I don't want to get into a discussion of whether this is the right approach (the Alpha for example does much of the work in hardware). I think in order to provide backward compatability (after all emulating the stupid x86 architecture is going to take up real-estate that you can't devote to a Alpha-size cache), they had to make a decision to move some of the execution-time work done by an architecture like the Alpha back to compile time. Making that all come together isn't an easy job.

I would argue, that so long as Merced is saddled with an x86 emulation burden, it will not be a cost-effective competitor to chips without that handicap. I feel though an un-x86ed Merced (perhaps 2003-2004?) will be the last processor you need for 90+% of the things we now use computers for.

That era chip *would* be the "last processor" until the IRAM (Processor-in-Memory) chips come out to break the memory-to-processor bottleneck. [After all it is pretty pitiful when 70-80% of your chip is devoted to nothing but cache!] The people at IBM seem to have shown this is doable with existing fabs by relaxing some of the DRAM constraints a bit. I suspect with the new Hitachi-Cambridge stacked 1 transistor/1 capacitor pseudo-static memory cell, that PiM chips done in IBM's SiGe process with copper wiring will really crank. If you combine that Toshiba's "paper-thin chip (130-micron) packaging you can stack these really close (though now you are back to the Cray problem of removing the heat). Though by then we may have operational reversible-instruction-set chip architectures that run cooler to incorporate into the mainstream. The only thing we are missing is a clear demonstration of optical inter-chip wiring to handle the cache coherence for those applications (like databases) that require it, or those computing models that require need high inter-CPU bandwidth like cellular-automota.

Yes, the future is clear and it seems like desktop brain-ops by 2010. The problem will be programming the darn thing with something other than bloatware spagetti (which is how this whole thread started out).