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Pimp my words: Quad Core Wars

Another IT Pro blog post, this time looking at the next generation of processors from Intel and AMD:
The end of January set the scene for a year in which new processor technologies from both the main hardware vendors look set to battle for the server crown. Intel's new Penryn processors move it onto new 45nm processes, while AMD's Barcelona offers single die quad core as a drop in replacement for many existing servers.

While Penryn is only just starting to sample, and is unlikely to ship until the later half of the year (though there are rumours of earlier ship dates), Intel's Clovertown quad core processors are already shipping. AMD is hoping to leapfrog Clovertown's performance with its new Opterons, and expects Barcelona to offer 40% better performance than the equivalent Clovertown. With Intel having stolen back the performance crown with its Core 2 architecture, AMD needs to offer big performance gains to win back flagship customers like Sun.
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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 25th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
Multicore scale-out is based on a hope that multi-threaded applications will scale well. This is usually true for server class applications, such as database or stateless WEB servers, so these multiprocessor packages work well in those scenarios. This is not generally true for client applications. Also, what remains problematic for both servers and clients is power management. The higher density computing in server farms is running into thermal and power limits which demand the multicore packages run at a lower Watts/MIPs than ever before. With laptops becoming the generic computing platform, decent battery life also demands a low Watts/MIPs ratio.
Feb. 26th, 2007 12:09 pm (UTC)
Some client apps do need CPU power
Client-side apps are differentiating radically these days. Some, like office apps (spreadsheet/WP etc.) are OK on quite low-power platforms. They're the sorts of things that tend to be run on laptops.

The other market is for the fire-breathing monsters like graphics, photo-editing, video editing and DVD production, engineering modelling, CAD etc. They're a tiny fraction of the market but important nevertheless in terms of money spent on new hardware, and those sorts of apps are all SMP-compliant. They will use all the cores they can get their hands on. Mostly though they don't run on laptops except in extremis.

I don't see VM being that important on client-side machines except for the techie types who want to run multiple OS instantiations at the same time. Servers, hell yeah.
Feb. 25th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
From an, erm, academic point of view, until Barcelona becomes available the only architecture worth looking at is Woodcrest, at least until the Penryn benchmarks come into play. Clovertown just doesn't seem to cut it in the memory bandwidth stakes, which reminds me of Intel's initial problems with Irwindale which allowed Opteron to take the crown, at least as far as Grid computing was concerned. If you're doing protein or crystallographic stuff having four SMP cores isn't as useful as having two properly addressed twin cores, simply because of the amount of data that needs to be addressed at any one time.

It's interesting to note that AMD have leaked 4- and 8- core processor specs, but nothing has been formally announced yet.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )