Quad-Core Chips To Boost Multimedia Apps, Server Consolidation

To take full advantage of the capabilities that multicore processors offer, companies need to make sure that their applications are multithreaded.
Multimedia applications will most readily benefit from the computing boost offered by quad-core microprocessors, well before enterprise software is tuned to take maximum advantage of multiple CPUs.

That's because video is easily decomposed into multiple threads, which can be doled out to the different cores. "With quad-core, you need a workload that can actually keep four high-performance CPUs busy. Right now there are only a few applications that can do this," said Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research, in an interview. Such apps include video encoding, photo processing, and complex database searches.

Gaming apps are just now starting to utilize dual-core microprocessors, but in the future more effort will go into developing games that use more cores, McCaron said.

Quad-core microprocessors could also help improve performance in server consolidation. "The biggest challenge for customers is being able to track all their resources and not feel that they're losing some performance as they consolidate," said John Fruehe, division manager for the server and workstation group at AMD, which plans to release its quad-core microprocessor later this year. "By putting more cores in the processor, you get better performance and provide more capabilities for that consolidated platform," he said.

AMD will offer a feature with its upcoming quad-core microprocessors called Nested Page Tables. The feature provides better memory access and improves performance when servers are consolidated down to fewer platforms using virtualization.

Additionally, large business applications like SAP and Oracle will benefit from multicore microprocessors. "Those apps were designed to run on larger systems, so they can scale to multiple cores," Fruehe said. To take full advantage of the capabilities that multicore processors offer, companies need to make sure that their applications are multithreaded, meaning they can perform several functions simultaneously. The good news is most current operating systems and enterprise apps already are multithreaded. However, those that are not will need to be re-written or upgraded.

Half of all mainstream desktop systems will have quad-core microprocessors by late 2009, according to a report this week from market research firm iSuppli. The research firm defines mainstream PCs as having the most common functionality available and priced between $500 and $1,000. With quad-core microprocessors, these PCs can have the capabilities found only in today's high-end systems.

But dual-core will continue to dominate the mainstream PC market for the next two years. "Dual-core CPUs have a long life ahead," said McCarron.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing