Dual Cores, Traffic and Gaming

Dual Cores are the new thing in the processor bussiness. They claim to be perfect for people who want to do different things at the same time but in reality they are just a cheap solution to deliver more.

The truth is that two 500 mhz processors just don’t deliver the calculation power of one 1 000mhz processor. Given offcourse that they are of the same architecture. This is due to the fact that there is a lot of additional logic required to let two processors work together without getting eachother in the way. When two processors both want to write another thing to the same spot of memory you would get impredictable results. To solve this you have all kind of ways to solve it, by for instance locking a region of memory for an amount of time, making the other processor to wait for the first one to finish. But this all creates a lot of overhead and complexity.

You could compare it with driving a car. Driving a car is relatively easy. You just have to steer around some static obstacles, no big deal. When you know the way you could even do it with your eyes closed. That is unless there are other people driving a car. When driving a car you are keeping an eye, not on the road, but on the other people on the road. This not only slows down your maximum speed or decreases efficiency – you can’t just drive full speed over a junction – but it also increases the complexity and the likelyhood of errors.

The same thing goes in the case of dual core processors (or even hyper-threaded and normal multi processor platforms). Although the comparison isn’t really valid because having two processors doesn’t mean that you have to do two things at the same time. The issue is though that what you normally would do, would only be done by one processor and you are therefore wasting the other’s capability.

A good example of this are games. Games tend to be single threaded, which gives best performance for no processor time is wasted to multithreading and it is the easiest thing to do for multithreaded is rather complicated. Complicated enough that there have been a few lengthy discussions in the mono mailing lists how to lock a simple object.

Because we are getting dual core and propably ‘more’core processors lateron for the companies are too lazy to make decent processors1 games should become multithreaded to exploit the full capability of the machine it runs on.

Although it makes creating performance applications a lot more difficult it will surelly benifit distributed computing for the change from different processors to different machines is less than from 1 processor to more.

[1] Native threaded CPU’s like dualcores/multi processor/hyperthreaded processors are ideal for server applications where multiple short living requests have to be resolved. Switching an allocating on a software-threaded processor would create too much overhead for such a simple request.

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