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How Many Cores? Is More Always Better?

 

A big hardware buzzword is multi-core, with companies like AMD and Intel releasing processors with more cores than ever. They’re exciting, particularly in the gaming world, but do you need them? We examine exactly what multi-core processors do, and if they can genuinely improve your business. 

What is a multi-core processor?

multi-core processor is a computer processor  with two or more separate processing units (CPUs), called cores, each of which reads and executes program instructions, as if the computer had several processors. 

In a single-core processor, the performance of the CPU is limited by the time taken to communicate with cache and RAM. Approximately 75% of CPU time is used waiting for memory access results.  To improve the performance of their processors, manufacturers have been releasing more multi-core machines.  A CPU that offers multiple cores may perform significantly better than a single-core CPU of the same speed.

Multiple cores allow PCs to run multiple processes at the same time with greater ease, increasing your performance when multitasking or under the demands of powerful apps and programs.

Threading

A thread is a string of data from a program that goes through a computer’s processor. Every application produces its threads. When a computer multi-tasks, because a single-core processor can manage one thread at a time, the system must move between the threads quickly to process the data.

The advantage of having several cores is that each core can handle a different data thread simultaneously, allowing for a much quicker transfer of data at any given time.

Clock speeds

A high clock speed means faster processor. For instance, a quad-core processor may support a clock speed of 3.0GHz, while a dual-core processor may hold a clock speed of 3.5 GHz for every processor. This means that a dual-core processor can run 14% faster.

So, if you have a single-threaded program, the dual-core processor is indeed more efficient. On the flip side, if your program can use all 4 processors, then the quad-core will then be about 70% quicker than the dual-core processor.

How does it relate to business?

When multiple cores work concurrently on instructions, at a lower rate than the single-core, they achieve an immeasurable processing rate. Multi-core processors produce high-performance computing (HPC). HPC will take complex computations and break them into smaller pieces. Using software, each piece of the computation can then be solved by multiple CPU cores. Think of it as taking a supercomputer and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable building blocks that can then be used to solve complex scientific problems.

HPC can therefore enable users to manage difficult tasks at relatively lower energy, which is a significant factor in devices like laptops, mobile phones or laptop, which run on batteries. This kind of energy saving – and ultimately cost saving – is one way in which your business could benefit.

If your business deals with virtualisation, databases and the cloud then multi-core processors could also be for you.

Most computer graphic rendering software, for instance, needs a rendering engine to show what occurs in an animation. A type of artificial intelligence manages characters, simulations and events in a virtual environment. Using a single core, all of events these must work by alternating between each process. Multi-core processing is essential to get these instructions to work without jitter or extremely long process times.

This is not only the case with virtualisation. If you work with video, video encoding programs will see substantial benefits because single-frame rendering can go into individual cores and then merge into a stream via the multi-core process.

For database management, scientific analysis or anything that requires processing huge volumes of data at high speeds, HPC, enabled by multi-core processing, is also essential.

Principally, having a multi-core processor is better if the program supports it. A quad-core or dual-core processor is sufficient for a standard computer user. Many business computers now come with these as standard, even though most users and business owners will see no real benefits from using four processor cores because there isn’t enough non-specialised software to put it to use. 

However, if you carry out complex tasks like a complex design rendering, scientific analysis, math programs, or desktop video editing, you can consider using higher-core-count processors.

If you want advice about your hardware and software please contact us today.

About CMI

We take care of your IT, so you can focus on running your business. Whether you are looking for a comprehensive outsourced IT support service or something more flexible, CMI can help. As industry-leading specialists in network security, business continuity, hardware and software provision, cloud computing and Internet services, CMI has been helping businesses gain a competitive edge through technology for 25 years.  Call today on 020 8875 7676 to learn more and sign up for a free consultation.

 

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Darron Millar

Darron Millar is Technical Director at BTA Limited. With 20 years of experience in the IT services industry, his areas of expertise include SME IT Consultancy, Cyber Security, and Project Management. Passionate about IT, Darron is dedicated to being a trusted advisor to clients who wish to leverage technology to enhance and support their business.