Market warms up to multi-core chips

But IDC predicts more "tire-kicking" in the industry, with ISVs remaining content with existing software licensing schemes.

2005 was the year of dual-core processors, as AMD jumpstarted the market by introducing in April dual-core Opterons which powered servers from Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun.

That marked the first time multicore processors were available for x86 volume systems. Intel followed suit half a year later in October with the debut of its first dual-core Xeons in Dell servers.

Other players in the multi-core industry include Azul Systems, ClearSpeed and Sun Microsystems. IBM, Sony, and Toshiba have also unveiled a multi-core offering named Cell, which they are jointly developing for next-generation computing applications and digital consumer electronics.

Outlook.06

What's hot
Dual-core processors shipped on 1-way and 2-way servers are likely to dominate the landscape.

Bottom line:
It is a good sign that most Tier 1 ISVs have indicated that they will price software based on the number of sockets, rather than processor cores.

With the first generation of multi-core processors out and these vendors laying the groundwork, how will 2006 pan out for the industry in terms of the technology and software licensing issues?

According to Vernon Turner, group vice president of IDC's global enterprise server solution division, 2006, which he still considers as phase 1, will still see "lots of tire kicking going on in the industry" with no serious commercial deployment of dual-core processor servers.

In other words, there will not be any part of IT actually taking advantage of the dual cores and additional threads to do more work, he explained. "Dual-core processors [will be] shipped on 1-way and 2-way servers as part of the product introduction. The workloads that would make sense for this configuration would be the Web-serving, or low-end, tier," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.

Consequently, most ISVs (independent software vendors) will remain status quo about licensing, since they "see no revenue shift or opportunity as dual-core servers do not equate to double the performance of the original configuration",he added.

Most of the tier one software vendors, such as Microsoft and Oracle, have indicated that they will price software based on the number of sockets, i.e., the number of CPUs, as it is today. "This is good for the industry," said Turner.

"However, it's the tier two guys who are in deep trouble. They seem to be lining up behind the number of cores a system has, thinking that a core equates to a CPU, which in my opinion is a major mistake."

By phase 2, which lasts from 2007 and 2008, he expects to see more multicore processors coming out in the form of 4-cores from the x86 server platforms, although today, Sun is shipping 4-, 6-, and 8-core Niagara-based systems.

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