Feeds

Exploding core counts: Heading for the buffers

Ferrari engine meet go-kart

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
IBM storage revenues sink: 'We are disappointed,' says CEO
Time to put the storage biz up for sale?
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
VMware's tool to harden virtual networks: a spreadsheet
NSX security guide lands in intriguing format
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.