Sun?s JavaSoft unit and Intel today avoided the issue about why Java-based mathematical applications run slower on Intel platforms than Risc.
The argument started after a report appeared on a Numerics list server. A paper commissioned by Microsoft was written by Jerome Coonen, a mathematician, who asked Sun, Apple and Microsoft about floating point issues.
Coonen's report said that Java-based mathematical applications might perform more slowly and, in some cases, deliver less accurate results when running on Intel x86 and Power PC-based platforms than on Risc workstations.
Bill Joy of JavaSoft said that Java was optimised for 32 and 64 bit operations to ensure it worked on all machines and produced the same results at an acceptable speed.
Intel?s floating point unit uses 80 bit operations, which meant the results had to be converted into 32 or 64 bit mode after each processor cycle.
"I have specifically discussed this aspect of Java with processor architects at Intel," he said. "We pointed out to them that this conversion to 64 bit was required to implement Java correctly, and suggested to them that they include hardware support for doing this operation more quickly in future Intel processors."
He said he informed Intel of the facts two years ago. "We can hope that such improvements will be made, not only in the new processor architecture that Intel has been working on with HP, but also in future versions of the Pentium family," he said.
Barbara Dawson, Intel?s strategic marketing manager, said: "I would assume it would compromise compatibility with other software if we had to alter our chip to cope with 64 bit precision. There are no plans to make hardware modifications on our current platform, and I believe that changing to 64 bit precision may not be the best way to go. It may be better to make alterations to the Java code itself."
She said that the numeric intensive part of applications were more likely to be written in languages such as C++ or Fortran rather than Java, due to the accuracy levels required.
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