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Tech Watch: Multicore PCs are selling, despite some app issues

Even small businesses are buying multicore desktops, but some apps are still not multicore ready.

The mainstreaming of server virtualization has convinced most businesses to invest heavily in multicore processor technology with little hesitation. Likewise, most new PC and notebook purchases come equipped with dual-core architectures.

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Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East Inc., a small-business technology solution provider in Manalapan, N.J., said his company has deployed a substantial number of multicore PC systems even among smaller companies.

"Users notice the speed and like the responsiveness," Harrison said. "There's no doubt in my mind that once Windows 7 releases, the market for desktop replacements is going to be very strong."

Downside to multicore PCs: Some apps not ready

But VARs say businesses still must exercise caution when upgrading to multicore technology, especially at the desktop, since some developers of specialized software applications have been slow to fully exploit multicore architectures. If the application doesn't support multithreading, it will be unable to take advantage of multicore performance advantages.

"Two years ago, the only applications that really made sense for multicore were server operating systems and high-end graphics," said Anton Ruighaver, director of operations for TECHLINQ [[kinda weird that this company doesn't come up on search except its own site. Is it a new company?]], an Oakland, N.J., solution provider. "Some applications are only just now becoming aware of multithreading."

Ruighaver cited the example of an accounting client who upgraded his systems earlier this year. When TECHLINQ looked into whether or not its accounting software would run smoothly, it couldn't get a clear answer from the developer.

M.J. Shoer, president and chief technology officer for Jenaly Technology Group, a technology solution provider in Portsmouth, N.H., said despite some uncertainty about software support every desktop, notebook and server that his company currently deploys is multicore in nature.

"At the server side, it's quad-core, often dual quad-core in virtualization environments," Shoer said. "The premium that you may pay for the additional cores is easily offset by the savings of virtualizing multiple servers."

When it comes to client-side systems, Shoer said the price/performance ratio of dual-core options is "extremely attractive in the current market."

Robby Hill, president of HillSouth Inc., a solution provider in Florence, S.C., said virtualization has prompted many questions about multicore PCs among his customers, but he is being conservative in his recommendations.

"Without virtualization technology we see little need for the number of cores that the hardware vendors are introducing or the premium that they charge for the maximum cores technologies," said Hill. "We take the same methods we have used with processor speed when deciding which number of cores to recommend to our clients."

For right now at least, most of his customers are choosing not to max out the number of cores that they can purchase. Those who are dipping their toes into virtualization generally outfit their servers with two dual-core processors, while those who are investing full-bore are opting for four quad-core processors. The size of the customer makes little difference in the multicore buying decision as smaller businesses are finding significant cost savings by using multicore architecture to help consolidate.

One other interesting dynamic that the multicore PC discussion has introduced: Hills said more of his customers are willing to consider processors from Advanced Micro Devices as an alternative.

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