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Research firm Gartner is predicting that in two years time dual-core microprocessors will represent the largest volume among the units supplied. The company advices the industry to start tailoring software for dual-core microprocessors already and make sure the software licensing policies allow dual-core chips to be deployed without risks.

“By 2007, dual-core processors will represent the majority of units shipped. Dual-core processors will deliver the greatest advance in performance since the introduction of the 386, but developers and users must test and tune their software to receive the full benefit of this performance boost,” claims analyst Martin Reynolds.

The world’s two largest makers of microprocessors – Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. – recently commercially launched their microprocessors that contain two processing engines. The manufacturers have different introduction patterns: Intel firstly launched desktop dual-core products and will wait till early 2006 before releasing its dual-core server and mobile chips, whereas AMD firstly released server flavour of its dual-core AMD64 offering and targets to roll-out desktop dual-core products in the second half of the year. In fact, both firms said dual-core products would not represent significant parts of their shipments in 2005.

“Processor manufacturers are using dual-core designs to sidestep the challenges of increasing gigahertz clock speed. Dual-core designs leverage processor and software features that already support dual-processor operation in small servers, so the design, test and qualification cycle is shorter than for a completely new processor design,” the report says.

Gartner recommends getting ready to test applications on dual-core platforms. The firm does not expect any major compatibility problems, but insists that applications that do not deliver expected performance gains should be replaced or redesigned rather than upgraded. It is highly advised to ensure that adding extra processor cores do not bring licensing risks. Microsoft is generally liberal with dual-core licenses and charges per processor, not per core, whereas Oracle treats dual-core as two separate processors for licensing purposes. Other vendors will sit between these extremes, Gartner thinks.

Both Intel and AMD expect to ramp up volume production of dual-core chips using 65nm process technology in 2006. Given that performance of single-threaded software on dual-core chips may be lower compared to that of single-core products, while theoretical speed gain because of the second core is about 100%, it is crucial for future software to be optimized for multi-threading to run well on the majority of new computers in 2007.

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