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The New Power Equation

For business-technology managers, the marching order for the past few years has been "Do more with less." Now comes a technology--multicore microprocessors--that does just that. The breakthrough chip technology is ready to deliver on its promise to provide more computing horsepower while taking up less space and generating less heat than conventional chips. Multicore processors, which pack multiple processing cores on a single chip, are transforming the design of data centers and providing a way for businesses to add more power and performance to their IT infrastructures without the problems that come with server sprawl.

The two major x86 server chip vendors, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel, have reason to believe that multicore technology will be adopted quickly and have a major impact on business computing. Sun Microsystems last week debuted servers that use its new UltraSparc T1 microprocessors, which have eight processing cores. And several other microprocessor suppliers are transitioning their products to multicore technology to increase performance while capping the heat generated by the chips. The chipmakers can "dial down" the clock speed of a processor slightly to reduce power requirements and associated heat dissipation, while increasing overall performance by adding two or more processing engines that perform tasks faster than their single-core counterparts.

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The Tokyo Institute of Technology doesn't need persuading. When the school developed a plan to create the largest supercomputer in Japan and one of the largest in the world, using multicore processors solved the problem of having a limited amount of space for a data center and the related issue of heat generation inside the center.

"We envision a 100-teraflop-scale system running Windows, Linux, or Solaris, which is obviously applicable to researchers using thousands of teraflops of power," says Satoshi Matsuoka, professor in charge of research infrastructure at the Global Scientific Information and Computing Center at Tokyo Tech. "It's pretty obvious this capability wouldn't have been reached without using this dual-core processor technology because we are heavily constrained in terms of space and power budget."

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