January 20, 2005 10:42 AM PST

Intel accelerates virtual-desktop plans

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Intel will begin to implement technology that will let a user run two operating systems on the same PC this year, an acceleration of the timetable that better matches its chip plans.

Vanderpool essentially divides the resources inside a single PC or server so that it can function like two or more independent machines. Virtualization technology like this is already common in the server market, and Intel had plans to bring it to its Itanium chip this year.

Initially, Vanderpool wasn't slated to come to desktops until 2006. Now, it will come out in desktop chipsets and processors in 2005. The company also released a preliminary specification on Thursday.

Intel will also release dual-core processors later this year. Vanderpool dovetails with these types of chips. Dual-core processors are made to perform two separate functions at once: Virtualization software can help balance the computing needs of each processing core with the software and other hardware inside the box.

Vanderpool is part of a family of enhancements Intel has been adding to its chips to improve overall computing performance or versatility without necessarily increasing power consumption.

Hyperthreading, the first in the series of improvements, allows a chip to handle multiple functions at once. Another coming in the near future, called Active Management Technology, or AMT, will enable an administrator to shut down a PC remotely if it is spitting out viruses.

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Hyperthreading/AMT
Hyperthreading isn't "doing two things at once." Current Pentiums already have been "dual core" in that they've had multiple execution units since the very first Pentium 1's. Unfortunately, Intel's design has resulted in one execution unit being stalled almost continuously. It's time for the media to stop repeating "hyperthreading is good, hyperthreading is good" over and over again, when in reality hyperthreading is attempting to cover an inherent flaw in the Intel processors.

Shutting down a PC remotely is the job of the operating system, and every single operating system in wide deployment supports a remote shutdown mechanism. On Windows NT, 2000 and XP, you need only turn on SNMP and use a standard tool that already exists and requires no processor changes to shut down a machine that is sending spam, etc. This is not something that belongs on the processor chip, and is something that has been supported by all major operatings systems for over a decade.

The ability to run two operating systems simultaneously may have some merit -- the bigger issue is going to be the dual processor core taxing the i/o lines and memory already. With two operating systems loaded simultaneously, the load on things such as disk drives, etc. will be a lot greater.

In my opinion, there is little or no value to this capability on consumer desktops. The value is to developers and QA departments, and to servers. Even there, users are going to demand applications that use both cores on the processor.

Long term, running two OSes simultaneously isn't going to be a win for the technology. Intel needs to refocus for desktop and workstation applications on getting their processors to stop stalling (AMD's stall much more rarely) and on getting their processors to run end user applications faster.

Virtualisation is not going to help applications perform faster -- what they are proposing means that you now have two operating systems needing to access data in different places on resources like hard drives, etc. at the same time.

This can only reduce performance, there's no mechanism by which it could improve it. And programs like VMWare can provide this capability already without needing the processor to support it, on existing chips, for those who actually need or would benefit from it.
Posted by tharcod (22 comments )
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Interesting rant
Are you refering to the "partial register stall", the "AGI stall" or something else? Even so, I doubt it is the number one concern at Intel. Don't forget that the P4 is dead (yay!) and the P-M (otherwise known as the P6 Phase II) is the future. Benchmarks show that a P-M runs close to the speed of the top P4s and AMD64s so once Intel speed up the P-Ms bus, add Hyperthreading(!) and rename it Intels problems are over.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
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Hype-erthreading :^)
I was thinking along those lines, but Dave said it a lot better than I could've.
Thanx!
Posted by powerclam (70 comments )
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