Feeds

Exploding core counts: Heading for the buffers

Ferrari engine meet go-kart

High performance access to file storage

Gartner's analysis does, of course, leave out one important issue. The main bottleneck on system performance is arguably - and man, do people argue about this - the limits on main memory capacity and bandwidth inside systems. In many cases, customers upgrade server platforms not because they need more CPU cores, but because they want both more memory and more bandwidth into and out of the CPUs.

Moreover, for some workloads - this is particularly true of online transaction processing - the amount of work a machine can do is more affected by the number of disk drive arms and the bandwidth in the disk subsystems than other factors, like the number of processor cores. In benchmark tests, server makers can get their server processors running at 95 per cent or higher utilization, but it is a very well run big iron box running Unix that can consistently stay at even a 60 to 70 per cent utilization rate running OLTP workloads.

I/O and memory bandwidth issues keep the processors tapping their feet, waiting for data. IBM's mainframe operating systems and middleware, as well as end user applications have been tuned and tweaked over decades to wring every ounce of performance out of the box and run at 90 per cent or higher utilization rates in production environments, but if you paid five or ten times the amount it costs to buy an RISC or x64 server, you would spend a lot of dough on tuning, too. And having done all that work, you would sure as hell think twice before moving those applications off the mainframe. Which is why mainframes persist.

The biggest issue, it seems, is that memory speeds have not even come close to keeping pace with processor speeds, which has been mitigated to a certain extent by the thermal wall that processors have hit. This is giving memory speeds a chance to catch up, perhaps. But the fastest DDR3 memory on the market still tops out at 1.3 GHz, and that is still less than half the speed of, say, a Nehalem Xeon processor that will hit the streets later this quarter. And even if you could get the speeds of CPU cores and memory in line, that doesn't solve the capacity issue.

Memory DIMMs can only be so small at a certain price per capacity, and motherboard makers can only put so many wires on the board for memory at a price. The memory issue is not going away. But solving this will perhaps be easier than coping with software stacks that don't understand how to make use of so many threads. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES
Or helium filling either, according to reports
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
USA opposes 'Schengen cloud' Eurocentric routing plan
All routes should transit America, apparently
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.