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Multi-Core Processors

In the past, when two processors were installed, software had to be specifically written to support having multiple processors. That is no longer true. A dual-core processor combines two CPUs in a single unit. A tri-core processor has three processors in a single unit. Both Intel and AMD have quad-core CPU technologies, which is either two dual-core CPUs installed on the same motherboard, two dual-core CPUs installed in a single socket, or today’s model of all four cores installed in one unit. Now there are also hexa-core (six cores) and octa-core (eight cores) processors. IT professionals in the field find it easiest to just say multi-core to describe the multiple cores contained in the same processor housing.

Single-core processors and early dual-core processors accessed memory through a memory controller, as shown in Figure 3.12. Today, the processor cores have their own memory controller built into the processor. Figure 3.13 shows how an AMD quad-core processor has an integrated controller and interfaces with the rest of the motherboard using a high-speed bus called HyperTransport. HyperTransport is a feature of AMD’s Direct Connect architecture. With Direct Connect, there are no front side buses. Instead, the memory controller and input/output functions directly connect to the CPU.

Figure 3.12

Figure 3.12 Older method of processors interfacing with memory

Figure 3.13

Figure 3.13 AMD quad-core memory access

All applications can take advantage of the multi-core technology and the background processes that are associated with the operating system and applications. This improves operations when multitasking or when running powerful applications that require many instructions to be executed, such as drawing applications and games.

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