Dual-core is here -- now what?

Dual-core is here -- now what?

While the battle for processor dominance heats up between Intel and AMD, product vendors are readying desktop and server offerings in the hope that customers will see the benefits of investing in dual-core technology.

The question for users is whether to buy or not to buy. The obvious answer is to buy, because (theoretically), they are getting a lot more bang for their buck, with the added benefit of a reduced need for much additional power or heat dispersion.

But, given that the major processor players are launching their respective offerings in different market segments, does it make sense to invest in one technology now, or wait until both are on par with offerings, and then evaluate and decide?

AMD currently has dual-core offerings in the server segment with its Opteron 64, while Intel has opted to launch its dual-core Pentium desktop offerings. Each company will have a wider portfolio of dual-core offerings by the end of the year.

HP, a vendor with no real allegiances to either AMD or Intel, believes that it is wise to make provision for what will inevitably be a dual- (or multi-) core future.

"The decision to invest in dual-core technology may actually be out of the hands of IT people," says HP business unit manager for industry standard servers, Paul Collins.

He says that a fully-loaded dual-core server from HP costs around 18 percent more than a single core equivalent, which, he says, makes sense to business people, getting a whole heap more performance for a little more than they would have paid before. "It is like Moore's Law on steroids," he comments.

However, will AMD's dual-core move in the server space force Intel's hand as it did with 64-bit extensions?

Intel, and Intel loyalists, may play down AMD's product offerings because of the lack of Intel product in the server market, but Collins says that vendors and integrators that limit themselves in offerings may become marginalized, as customers could sway between technologies.

Dell product marketing manager, Ben McDonald, says that the company (traditionally a huge Intel partner) has already launched dual-core offerings in the desktop space, and will not consider offering dual-core AMD Opteron-based servers.

"Dell has found that, in the server space, there is a lot more trust for the Intel platforms," he says.

"Sure, customers may want to explore other offerings, if they believe that they can get better business benefit from them, but the general feeling with our customers is that Intel has a good roadmap, and is stable in the enterprise segment," McDonald adds.

IT people have been preaching consolidation and cost reduction for years now, and, while dual-core may not initially be the panacea it is made out to be for this age-old problem, it is a good stepping stone in the right direction for enterprises, many believe.

The bottom line is that servers should fulfill a need. The trick for vendors is to invest heavily in R&D around these servers, and to make sure that customers have alternatives.

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