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Chris Breisch   .NET Data Practices
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A little while ago, I read this post by Jeff Atwood on the subject.  His conclusion is no, you don't.

However, the results I did find are so poor that I wonder if any quad CPU system is good for much more than bragging rights. Of the desktop apps, only three truly benefit from a quad CPU configuration: 3D Studio Max, POV-Ray, and Cinebench 2003. Notice a pattern? Rendering and encoding tend to parallelize well.

Unless you're often running a specific application that is optimized for multithreading, there's no compelling reason to run out and buy a quad-CPU desktop system today. And I don't see that advice changing over the next few years. At least, not until the state of software development changes quite radically to embrace multithreading across the board.

Initially, I was impressed with his research (I hadn't seen any on the subject, and it made me start to think that Quad Core is overkill).  Upon further reflection, as I sit here and wait for Vista RC1 to install in a virtual machine, I realize that Jeff might be wrong.  Perhaps the word "wrong" is too strong.  It's not that I disagree with any of his points, I just think that Jeff may not have gone far enough in his thinking.

It appears to me from the successes of VMWare, VirtualPCParallels, and even WINE (more emulation that virtualization), that virtualization is going to keep getting bigger and bigger, and may not even be that far off from being relatively mainstream.  It seems to me that having dedicated cores for your virtual machines might be really nice.  Right now I'm installing Vista RC1 on a single-core box with the virtual machine throttled down to max out at 50% CPU usage, and I feel like I could time this install with a calendar.  With virtualization and dedicated cores, I don't need a multi-threaded app, just that single app running as it always used to expect to run, on its own CPU.  That way I can run my MacOS X and still run Microsoft Outlook 2007, or run my nice DOS games under Vista or XP.

His argument still holds to a degree, in that most virtualization software is not built to run this way...yet.  This is an obvious enhancement as multi-core desktops become more and more common.

Posted on Friday, September 15, 2006 10:20 AM General | Back to top

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