Here's a little bit of future shock for you, courtesy of Martin Banks and IT Pro: Eight-core single-socket x86 processors are due out by the end of this year. Within five years, the same device will sport 128 cores.
So today's question is just what, exactly, will you do with all that power? But before you let your imagination run too wild, realize that this change on the processor level will not simply produce more of the same. What we're talking about here is a complete overhaul of the entire enterprise computing environment -- affecting everything from hardware configurations, infrastructure architectures, software designs and anything else you thought you knew.
Fortunately, a roadmap is available that should give you a clearer idea of where you need to go, and how to get there. High performance computing (HPC) environments have only recently made the jump from universities and research centers to top-tier commercial enterprises. The advent of the mega multicores will drive the concepts of clustered parallel processing further down market.
Ultimately, as the notion of a single processor passes into the shadows, enterprise execs will have to familiarize themselves with new ways of assessing system and network performance, perhaps by counting the number of memory controllers or nodes per cluster. But that's only the beginning. Does the x86 architecture have a future in this new reality? What will it mean when operating systems are no longer tied to a particular processor?
These are the kinds of questions that keep the top minds in the industry up at night. One thing is for certain, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting.