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Windows leads Linux in multicore development

So we just finished up writing out story about the future of operating systems, for our 25th anniversary issue, due to hit your in-boxes next week. For this story, we interviewed Jim Held, the director of the tera-scale computing for Intel.

One thing we learned is that because Intel (and its rival Advanced Micro Devices) is piling more and more cores onto its microprocessors, operating systems will have to take on some new duties. Namely, each OS must have a way to divvy up all the applications it is running at any given time among all the available cores.

"The mainstream operating systems will have to go where they haven't been before, and that is to support parallel programming in the software," Held said.

You'd think that the brainy Linux kernel developers would be all over this challenge, but interestingly enough, it is Microsoft that is ahead in this game, according to Held.

"The Linux community has indicated that they are very skeptical of how quickly they will have to move," Held said. "They weren't so sure of how the community would latch on to large-scale chip multi-processing."

In all fairness, Intel has been talking up some extremely large-scale CMP, dreaming about 80 cores or more per chip.

The folks at Microsoft, on the other hand, seem to be more supportive of Intel's ambitions.

"Microsoft is very much engaged in planning of this future of many-core. I think they recognize the importance of parallelism. They are trying to learn from the experiences of in the supercomputing space as much as they can."

Such work is important, Held insisted.

"With thread-level parallelism, while we'll continue to get performance increases in individual cores, the big boost in performance will come from parallelism. Microsoft recognizes that and is moving to address that," Held said.

Update (Dec 17, 2008): The New York Times published an article on the work Microsoft is doing in the multicore space.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Dec 04, 2007 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Mon, May 25, 2009 Nathaniel

this is puzzling, just take a look at the top 500 supercomputers worldwide (http://www.top500.org/)! Most of them are Linux-based... at the place where i work, a typical job runs with 16-32 cores on a 1024-core CentOS machine.

Sun, Dec 9, 2007 Harry Foxwell VA

A brief trip to Google or Wikipedia, or better yet,to sun.com, would have shown that Sun Microsystems has led both in the development AND implmentation ofmulticore processing, and in the operating system featuresthat support it.Sun's processors have been multicore sincethe 2003 introduction of the dual-core UltraSPARC IV;today, Sun's UltraSPARC T2 processor boasts 8 coreswith 8 threads per core for a total of 64 CPU threadsper chip. And the Solaris operating system takes fulladvantage of such scalability, including support for two virtualization models: Containers, and LogicalDomains.So, while Intel is "dreaming" and the Linux communityis "skeptical", Sun is already taking advantage of multicore technology. Find out more athttp://www.sun.com/featured-articles/2007-0807/feature/index.jsp

Fri, Dec 7, 2007 Greg Soravilla

I think this title is misleading. Windows has to have more developers making multi-core aware code because it's playing catch-up. Certainly if Linux and Windows were BOTH starting at square one then more development on Windows might be an actual headline. This is like saying "Vizio produces more 42" TVs than Sony". Kind of implies Sony is losing when it really has already sold a ton of 42" TVs and a whole lot of other sizes. I mean really. We run VMWare ESX and it's on Linux and takes advantage of our extra cores. This is enterprise wide here.Sincerely,Greg

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