Two cores are better than one, right? It reminds me of those AT&T commercials where they ask the kids, “Who thinks two is better than one?” And of course the kids all yell, two! In another version of the commercial they ask; “What’s better, doing two things at once or just one?” And again they all yell, two! Well, this is a good summary or of last week’s Multicore conference, where the conversation focused precisely on these questions: Are two cores (or multiple cores) are better than one core, and is doing two tasks (or multiple tasks) at once are better than one? And if so, how much better?
To answer these question, the conference brought together hardware and software companies to discuss the challenges of developing efficient multicore hardware and software. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to define (or try to define) what multicore means. During the closing panel discussion, I was surprised to learn that there is no Wikipedia entry for ‘Multicore.’ It just says, “May refer to: Multi-core computing.”
I was even more surprised at the debate that ensued after the opening question; “what does multicore (or many core) mean?” There was agreement (at least) that it means more than one core, but that’s where the agreement ended. To some multicore means homogeneous CPU cores, to others it means multiple heterogeneous processor cores, and to others any mix of cores in the system. My working definition has been, for the most part, multiple heterogeneous processor cores, but I will admit that I sometimes drift to the third definition meaning any system with ‘lots’ of cores. I will spare you the panel debate over the second question: “define a core.”
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