Kudos to Microsoft for Dual-Core Chip Plans

Opinion: The company's decision to keep per-processor licensing for upcoming multicore technology is a win for customers, but of more immediate licensing concern are grid, partitioning and utility computing.

Its a clear win for customers that Microsoft has decided to maintain the status quo with its per-processor software licensing model after dual-core and multicore processor hardware becomes available in coming months. Microsoft announced on Tuesday that the company wont consider dual-core, four-core, eight-core or whatever-core as individual processors, but rather that such technology will be treated, from a licensing perspective, as one processor, no matter how many cores you carve into a chip.

Thats relevant to SQL Server, as well as to BizTalk Server and other Windows Server System products. Licensing experts and at least one SQL Server customer were gloating at the news, given that its going to be much cheaper to run SQL Server on souped-up servers than it will be to run Oracle or IBM databases.

/zimages/7/28571.gifMicrosoft is releasing previews of SQL Server 2005 prior to the next beta, which is due out in the first quarter of next year. Read more here.

"I can pay additional money for a better processor, but that wont affect my SQL Server licensing fees," said Jamie Baxter, a senior technology consultant for Watson Wyatt, a human capital company, in San Diego. "Its a good thing."

It is a good thing, for sure, but after all, its only fair. According to AMD, actual performance gain is between 30 percent and 55 percent in a dual-core processor. Dual-core isnt a way to get twice the bang for the buck. What it is is the next evolutionary path for chip vendors to take, given that chips running at these speeds run tremendously hot and are power-greedy.

Hot chips require a lot of cooling. AMDs solution to that problem was to switch to a dual-core chip that runs at slower clock speed. The real point of the technology is to allow a performance increase without a heat increase. In other words, it doesnt scale perfectly, and nobody at this point is looking at getting double the performance of a comparable single-core processor.

/zimages/7/28571.gifThe computer industry is facing an increasing power-management challenge in its chip designs, according to Intel CEO Craig Barrett. Click here to read more.

Yet companies like Oracle and IBM are perfectly comfortable with the idea of charging customers for a two-processor server when theyre in fact using dual-core processors that will only get them between 130 percent to 155 percent the performance of a one-processor setup. "For the purposes of counting the number of processors which require licensing, a multicore chip with n processor cores shall be counted as n processors," according to Oracles Licensing Unit Definitions.

Next Page: Applications like SQL Server cant see the cores.