Instant expert: multi-core servers

06/06/2011 15:40pm

Will this make my day more fun, make my work easier and treble my attractiveness on the dance floor?

To an extent, yes. Multi-core processing can do the first two. As for the third, have you considered going to clubs where the lighting isn’t so good?

Very funny. So what’s so special about multi-core? Isn’t it just technobabble?

Far from it. Multi-core processors are the result of a battle against dark forces and strange phenomena.


Really. Remember the days of single-core chips when they got faster and faster and faster?


After a while it all got a bit Back To The Future.

The processors travelled back to the fifties and were hit on by their own mother?

Something like that. It turned out that when you pushed single-core chips too hard, weird things started to happen. The Pentium 4 was supposed to keep going until it hit 10GHz, but at 3.8GHz engineers got a big surprise: power started leaking all over the place and the processor generated massive amounts of heat.

What happened then?

After about an hour one of the Pentiums got so hot that it burrowed into the very centre of the Earth.



So multi-core processors were invented and everyone lived happily ever after?

Pretty much, yes. Intel redesigned its processor architecture, which enabled faster and faster performance without the whole “burning a hole through the Earth” thing.

Why exactly should I care about any of this?

Because it makes a phenomenal difference to your business’s bottom line. Multi-core server processors such as the Intel Xeon 5500 series deliver massively improved performance and massively reduced energy consumption.

Now we’re talking. Our last energy bill wouldn’t have been much cheaper if we’d been powering the Sun.

Exactly. And multi-core processors can also get rid of entire bits of kit. By using virtualisation software you can create virtual machines and run multiple instances on a single server.

It all sounds too good to be true. I take it the price tags are suitably stratospheric?

Far from it. You can buy an entry level, multi-core server for just £229.

Hahahahaha! You just said I could get a server for £229!

It wasn’t a typo. Power’s been going up and prices have been going down, and even the highest-end servers cost considerably less than you might expect. It’s all about Dell’s plan to get its consumers doing more and consuming less.

Funny you should mention that. That’s my plan for this summer. No carbs before Marbs!

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Now you know how I feel.