Intel Scales Developer Thinking

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-09-03 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

With hyperthreading, Intel Corp. offers the cost-effective performance of multithreaded execution without the infrastructure costs of multiprocessor systems.

With hyperthreading, Intel Corp. offers the cost-effective performance of multithreaded execution without the infrastructure costs of multiprocessor systems. At the same time, by opening formerly internal hardware to use by applications, Intel invites developers to write code specifically for Intel hardware—reducing the value of being merely "X86-compatible" at the likely expense of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Most software treats the central processor as single-threaded: a simple assembly line that translates an instruction, retrieves data, performs the operation, returns results and goes to the next instruction. Within a Pentium- or Athlon-class CPU, however, one section fetches an instruction while another section translates the instruction previously fetched. Other on-chip hardware concurrently completes the instructions translated before. These optimizations take place without the assistance (or even the knowledge) of application code.

More-aggressive concurrent processing, as in multiway servers or workstations, requires additional support from chip sets, operating systems and application writers. Even parallelism within one Pentium processor can be hampered if a software developer ignores tricky interactions among CPU subsystems.

Hyperthreading exposes more of the resources of the processor core to direct manipulation by software, yielding some of the gains of a second separate CPU at price points that may expand this market down to midrange desktop systems—and therefore encouraging many more application developers to learn the multithreaded way of thinking.

 
 
 
 
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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