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Dozens Of Cores And Memory Wars

Virtual Infrastructure Summit At VMWorld 2005
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The future is clearly multi core, and we will eventually see 16- and 32-core computers at a much more affordable price than they are today. Chips with more than two cores will most likely have a unified cache, since the way CPUs are built today, the cache can amount to one half or even more of the total chip real estate. Our guess is that we will easily see the first quad core processors within a year's time.

These upcoming chips will make for some exotic hardware configurations, and it will be interesting to see how AMD and Intel solve the problems that will occur, specifically with regard to memory access. It seems to us that a dual CPU computer with a total of eight cores will have a considerable bus contention problem compared to a similar computer with more than one memory bus.

AMD's HyperTransport technology could solve this in a much more elegant way than Intel's shared bus technology, although the approach of two independent, high speed Front Side Buses offers some nice improvements over today's bottlenecked architecture. AMD's Opteron 800 series could, for example, be modified to have two memory controllers instead of CPU to CPU interconnects for the third and fourth CPUs. Imagine this problem with 16 cores on a dual CPU computer - to cope with this, motherboards will need to be considerably different than they are today.

Multi core CPUs will make the most sense in server farms where parallel computing is paramount. On the other hand, CPUs with more than two cores will make limited sense on the desktop, as long as most of our applications are single-threaded. This will change over time, though, and we will see enormous performance benefits even in desktops and notebooks with the most power hungry applications. We look forward to dual core notebooks that will help alleviate stalls and enable a serious presentation platform for virtual machines - at least as long as the disks can keep up...

Closing Thoughts

Virtualization makes the enterprise so much more flexible, and all the technology presented here at VMWorld 2005 clearly portrays a future full of new technology making virtualization easier, cheaper, more efficient and generally better overall.

According to everyone here - even Microsoft, present with its upcoming Virtual Server 2005 R2 - the future is without a doubt virtualized. In a few words, like IBM said in the general session: "Virtualize everything - Virtualize now!"

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