by July 1, 2005 0 comments



There was a time not so long back when it seemed that the only thing the ‘big two’ PC processor manufacturers, Intel and AMD, were interested in was upping the clock speed. They spent precious years trying to outgun each other in speed wars, with precious little innovation on other fronts. It might have been due to transistor leakage problems that cropped up as processor speeds were cranked up (which forced the two to look for alternatives) but the fact is we’ve seen more innovations in this industry in the past years than in the five before.

Direct
Hit!

Applies to: Desktop users

USP: Dual-core CPUs can handle more efficiently than single-core CPUs

Primary Link:
www.amd.com, www.intel.com 

Google keywords: dual core cpu

Multi-core processors are an example of one such innovation. The ‘core’ of the processor is it’s heart, the one that does all the work. Traditional processors from the 8080 to the Athlons and P4s have all been single core. Multi-core processors, as really should be obvious from the name, are processors with two or more cores. This provides the benefit of performance of increased transistor count without the problems associated with running processors at higher clock speeds as the cores in a multi-core processor scenario typically run at a lower clock speed than their single-core counterparts. The resultant increase in parallelism (more than) makes up for the loss in clock speed as far as the overall performance is concerned. Applications that utilize a threaded approach are the ones equipped to extract maximum mileage as this architecture allows a processor to execute as many independent threads as the number of cores it has. Each core has it’s own cache so the benefits of such an arrangement are quite obvious. For example, a game designer could code for one core to handle the graphics, while the other concentrates on the AI. It must be noted that the applications must be written to exploit the multi-core architecture, just as for multi-CPU. A single thread application would get no benefit whatsoever from running on a multi-core processor and as a matter of fact, might actually run slower. As it’ll run only one of the cores at any given time, which is typically at a lower clock speed.

AMD currently has two dual-core offerings. The Dual-Core AMD Opteron processor is aimed at the enterprise server and workstations market while the AMD Athlon 64X2 Dual-Core processor is for the desktops. It plans to introduce a dual-core processor targeted at the mobile market shortly. Both of these processors are capable of running in 32 as well as 64-bit modes. The inter-core communication takes place at the CPU speed. For other technical specifications visit multicore.amd.com.. One of the issues that has cropped up as far as multi-core processors are concerned is that of licensing. Many of the enterprise applications are licensed per CPU. Now some of the software vendors, like Oracle, want to treat each core of a processor as a different CPU and charge fees accordingly.

AMD, on the other hand, insists that a processor is a single CPU irrespective of the number of cores inside. It is being supported by other software vendors like
Microsoft who say they’ll charge fees for a single CPU license only.

Kunal Dua

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