Multicore Computing, Virtualization Will Grow in Importance in 2007

Next year will be a busy one in the server industry with a host of new products and innovations, thanks in large part to the increasing importance of multicore computing and virtualization technology. However, it looks like 2007 will prove lackluster in the PC space, as enterprise users and consumers decide whether to immediately adopt Microsoft’s Vista Windows operating system.

Industry analysts agreed that the server market is well-poised to take advantage of innovations in both multicore processing and virtualization.

On Nov. 14, Intel rolled out its quad-core processor, which has found early adopters in Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Not to be outdone, Intel’s rival, Advanced Micro Devices, demonstrated it own quad-core processor on Nov. 30, and will make it available by the middle of 2007.

While multicore technology in the x86 space is getting the bulk of the headlines, Sun Microsystems, which last year rolled out its RISC-based eight-core UltraSPARC T1 “Niagara” chip, is expected to launch Niagara 2 in 2007, which will still have eight cores, but with each core being able to process eight instruction threads rather than the four threads per core in the T1 chip. IBM also is expected to roll out its Power 6 processor in the middle of 2007.

While the benefits for the server market are obvious in terms of processing power and ability to perform more functions, such as virtualization, it does seem that PCs will not be able to take advantage of these types of multicore innovations for some time.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata in Nashua, N.H., told eWEEK that the problem is there have been few application developed to work with quad-core processors.

Click here to read more about how the server market shaped up in the third quarter.

“I don’t see client devices adding more cores, because much of the software out there is not multithreaded,” Haff said.

However, the fact that Intel and AMD are locked into a competitive battle for the hearts and minds of OEMs will mean lower prices and better bargains for consumers in 2007, Haff said.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research in Hayward, Calif., went a step further and said PCs are still struggling to realize the full processing potential of dual-core chips. (Many OEMs, however, are at least urging enterprise customers to use dual-core to optimize Vista’s features.)

“You have a huge amount of processing power but people are still using the same old applications,” King said. “Applications are what drives the uptake and gets people involved enough that they want to buy new machines. The application stream has been pretty flat.”

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