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4/15/2005
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Darrell Dunn
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CPU Cool: Getting Faster But Not More Power-Hungry

The next major evolution in microprocessor technology is expected to be one of the most significant advancements ever, allowing for the design of new servers that could offer twice the performance or more compared with current generations, without an increase in power dissipation to add to the heat problem in data centers. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is expected to introduce its first dual-core Opteron server processor as soon as this week, and Intel is expected to follow suit with a dual-core Xeon either late this year or early in 2006.

The dual-core devices, which will be followed by multicore processors, are key to keeping the power demands of future servers in check, says Jeff Clarke, senior VP of the enterprise product group for Dell. "We see a natural progression in silicon technologies that are going to help system designers build cooler machines and design to different thermal envelopes," he says.

AMD and Intel believe they can produce processors with two cores that will be able to operate at lower clock frequencies and lower associated power, while providing increased performance over single-core counterparts. Or, if power isn't a top concern, the two cores can be clocked at higher speeds.

The key metric for processor performance in the years ahead will be price/performance per watt, says Kevin Knox, VP of worldwide commercial business development for AMD. Within the next few years, processors with four cores are expected to be introduced, and that's not the end of the road. "Even as you move to eight or 16 cores, it will be critical to keep the same power envelope," Knox says. "The world used to be all about speed, speed, speed. People now will continue to look for speed bumps, but we can't sacrifice power to get there."

Illustration by Steve Lyons

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