By Alice Hill

The chip race just got faster with AMD’s announcement that it was going from a dual-core CPU lineup to a full out quad-core implementation by 2007. Read up and then I’ll see you at the bottom of this posting for what this really means:

AMD has revealed that they are planning a quad-core-capable processor family for release some time in 2007. In addition, the chip maker says that they will be switching to a new internal architecture for their x86 CPUs in 2008 or 2009. Details of this switch have not yet been announced.

AMD shipped the first dual-core versions of their 64-bit Opteron server CPUs in May of this year, beating rival Intel to the punch. The move to multiple CPU cores on one die has been an industry-wide shift, precipitated by the failure of clock frequency scaling to keep up with improvements in process technology. While Moore’s Law continues unabated for the time being and more transistors can be packed on the same die at 90nm and 65nm, MHz scaling appears to have hit a wall. Faced with this undeniable fact, the most efficient use of those extra transistors is to add more cores. Source: ARS Technica

Alice Says: it’s the age old problem, software. True, you can turn up a chip’s clock speed or you can add more cores to get the most out of a CPU’s transistors, but throwing cores at the problem won’t necessarily bring about a speed improvement unless you have an OS and applications that are truly multi-threaded. What that mean is, don’t expect a quad CPU version of Microsoft Office anytime soon, but do expect to see servers lap up the extra threads. Servers are good at multi-threading, while desktops as application machines are another story. Which makes me wonder: if software starts to come more from servers hosted online, and the pipes become faster as well, will the PC at the end of the line become the bottleneck again? Then we have truly come full circle.

But…. Licensing Nightmare Up Ahead?

Licensing the Socket
One thing that is not always apparent to customers is the hidden licensing-compliance issue, noted Sun”s Lovell. He said MicrosoftRelevant Products/Services from Microsoft was one of the first to announce it would count processors at the socket level rather than at the core level, which means that dual-core processors would be counted as a single chip for calculating licensing fees.

Shannon Poulin, enterprise marketing manager for Intel”s Latest News about Intel Server Platforms Group, said Microsoft has the right strategy for handling the dual-core issue.

“We see Microsoft with its per-socket licensing model and believe that it is the right approach,” said Poulin. “How you get more performance out of a socket should not really matter,” Poulin believes. “Where licensing is an issue, it behooves enterprises to understand and confirm what the licensing terms are and if it will be an issue with any of their software.”

Some database Latest News about database vendors still interpret dual-core processors under older models from the dot-com era when many vendors used per-CPU rates to determine volume pricing.

“Single-core CPUs in the data center Latest News about data center are pretty easy to audit,” noted New Energy Associates” vice president of software development Neal Tisdale. But the problem with some software contracts, many of which are eight to 10 years old, is that they fail to define what a CPU is, he explained.

That omission is causing some companies to hesitate before going to dual-core processors and causing others not to deploy Oracle Latest News about Oracle on dual-core systems at all, Tisdale said. Although Oracle initially equated dual-core processors with two CPUs, the company yielded to pressure recently and now multiplies by 0.75, according to Lovell. “This essentially brings down the cost a little bit,” he said.

Licensing Catch 22
IBM Latest News about IBM is straddling the fence by charging for its software by physical sockets in the case of AMD dual-core processors. However, in the case of its own Power processor architecture, IBM considers each core to be a processor from both the technological and licensing standpoints.

Big Blue claims that its Power technology generally delivers double the performance of other microprocessor architectures and that the real-world performance boost for multicore x86 processors is incremental. Source: NewsFactor Network