AMD VP Makes The Case For Multi-Core Technology

Multi-core processor technology: by now you've heard of it, but do you need it?

Doing the most you can while using the fewest resources possible is the basic productivity goal of any organization. The technology of multi-core computing is all well and good in theory, but you need to see an increase in real-world performance to justify the purchase.

In server environments, where multiple users run applications simultaneously, multi-core technology can help to better handle user requests and enhance productivity across multiple groups. Beyond such quantifiable results, multi-core can deliver qualitative performance advantages. Smoother and more efficient processing while using your computer can help create the technological and mental space for you to be more productive. Multi-core can enable you to put your thoughts into action more quickly, without waiting for your computer to catch up.

For the enterprise, the quantitative side -- the budget and ownership costs -- is a big part of the deal. Usually, the budget is fixed and you need to maximize it across the enterprise, while still providing the level of performance, security and reliability users expect. But the qualitative side is important as well -- if users experience better performance they just might make fewer calls to the help desk. And the quicker you serve up your data to your users, the quicker they can help customers, increasing the likelihood of closing business and keeping clients happy. In this way, multi-core technology can help drive creativity, productivity and satisfaction to new levels.

Benefiting The Enterprise

If you're an enterprise IT manager or someone who makes enterprise IT decisions, you already know how to measure success. Not too long ago, you probably did a lot of work to grow your IT infrastructure. Early on, growth was the name of the game.

Now in addition to growing, you need to focus on maintaining and improving the infrastructure you already have. Ongoing reliance on the proven x86 architecture is placing unprecedented and ever-more-complex performance demands on servers. You're charged with delivering increasing availability, reliability and security. The amount of data you have to manage is growing exponentially. Users expect your network to be available at all times. Your network should also be capable of running the latest applications or you'll face a mounting barrage of complaints and impossible demands from all levels of the organization. And this all has to happen within a budget.

So how do you stay ahead? On the surface, staying on top of your IT tasks may seem quite difficult -- but with the right tools, it doesn't have to be.

Deploying For Today; Ready For Tomorrow

Multi-core processors enable your enterprise to increase productivity and capacity within the existing computing infrastructure. They can help you add significant performance capacity without adding to your power consumption, space requirements and/or cooling needs. That's the today part.

Users let you know when your network slows down. Multi-core technology can help give you more capacity for server loads within existing infrastructure parameters, resulting in increased network responsiveness.

Increasing Performance Without Increasing Power Consumption

If you're an IT manager, you probably want to add performance without physically replacing any servers or increasing any of the following:

  • Power consumption
  • Cooling requirements
  • The physical footprint of your hardware

Multi-core processor solutions address these needs, as the following sections explain.

Designed For Lower Power Consumption

Several design features built into multi-core architecture enable increased performance-per-watt:

  • Integrated memory controller: Integrating the memory controller into the processor architecture reduces power consumption and increases performance.
  • Native multi-core design: Multi-core processors are designed on a single die, thereby improving the efficiency of the communication among cores.
  • Lower power requirements: Head-to-head comparisons show multi-core processors consume 40 to 80% less power than competing solutions. Do the math: If you're running a server at 100 watts/hr. less power, 24 hrs./day, that's 2.4 kilowatt hrs/day. Multiply that by 356 days/year at an average cost of $0.10 per kw/hr. and you get a savings of about $888 per server.
  • Lower cooling costs: For every dollar spent powering a server, another is spent cooling it.

Providing Better Security

Security has always been a critical issue for IT. In recent years, this issue has grown in complexity: Security threats have become more sophisticated, costs have risen, and new privacy and information-security laws require new levels of enterprise security, segregation, and reporting of user access. In addition, everyone's aware of the potential threats of viruses, worms and spyware.

Multi-core technology offers the computing power, capacity and sophistication to help meet increasing security demands, as well as offering some security-specific technologies.

  • Enhanced Virus Protection (EVP): AMD pioneered EVP, which helps provide protection at the platform level when used in combination with operating systems including Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and the leading Linux distributions from Red Hat and SuSE.
  • Performing faster virus scans: Multi-core processors combined with the latest virus scan software can allow virus scanning programs to run invisibly in the background.
  • Keeping up with the latest security applications: Multi-core processors can provide extra headroom for load increases from new security apps and technologies in the future.

Enabling Virtualization

Virtualization largely uses software to allow workload sharing at the processor level by providing the illusion of multiple distinct machines. Virtualization can be used to help create several virtual machines out of one desktop computer, one virtual machine from several servers or several virtual machines out of one server. You can use these virtual machines to balance workloads among underused IT assets, minimizing the need to hold performance overload in reserve for peak situations and making the most of underutilized hardware to grow datacenters virtually rather than physically.

Some advantages of virtualization include:

  • Putting underutilized processors back to work: If you have a processor constantly running a low-load application, you can divide it into two or more virtual machines -- one to stay dedicated to the low-load application, the others available to perform other tasks.
  • Managing fluctuating workloads: Some applications are considered very peaky -- that is, they see some periods of very high workload and others of very low workload. Virtualizing processors into virtual machines enables you to scale the processors capacity for peaky applications as needed.
  • Multiple operating systems: Virtualization can help you run multiple operating systems (such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Solaris) simultaneously on a single physical machine.
  • Isolating secure environments: Virtualization can also be useful in providing additional security by segregating trusted applications from untrusted ones. You can also segregate users and access in much the same way. (This use of virtualization can greatly help in complying with privacy and information-security laws, by making areas of your computing infrastructure completely inaccessible as through they were physically separate, locked-out machines.)
  • Consolidation: As the cost of managing physical servers increases, virtualization can allow companies to reduce costs by using fewer physical machines.

Multi-core processors can help improve end-users' work by enabling true multi-tasking and better performance. End-users can become more productive and notice an improved overall work experience, which in turn helps reduce the number of complaints and service calls to IT. Many enterprises have turned to multi-core because of the benefits that it can bring. The trick is in understanding these benefits, deciding what works best and then being able to apply the technology to reap the rewards.

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