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How Many CPU Cores Do You Need?

How Many CPU Cores Do You Need?

In the early years of the new millennium, with CPU clock speeds finally accelerating past the 1 GHz mark, some folks (Ed.: including Intel itself) predicted that the company’s new NetBurst architecture would reach speeds of 10 GHz in the future. PC enthusiasts looked forward to a new world where CPU clocks kept increasing at an accelerating pace. Need more power? Just add clock speed.

Newton¡¦s apple inevitably fell soundly on the heads of those starry-eyed dreamers who looked to MHz as the easiest way to continue scaling PC performance. Physics doesn¡¦t allow for exponential increases in clock rate without exponential increases in heat, and there were a number of other challenges to consider, such as manufacturing technology. Indeed, the fastest commercial CPUs have been hovering between 3 GHz and 4 GHz for a number of years now.

Of course, progress can¡¦t be stopped when money is involved, and with folks willing to shell out cash for more powerful computers, engineers set out to find ways to increase performance by improving efficiency rather than relying solely on clock speed. Parallelism presented itself as a solution–if you can¡¦t make the CPU faster, well, why not add addition compute resources?


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