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Windows 7 To Be 256-Core Aware 441

Posted by kdawson
from the so-they-say-now dept.
unassimilatible writes "As new features of Windows 7 continue to trickle out, ZDNet is now reporting that it will scale to 256 processors. While one has to wonder, like with Vista, how many of the teased features will actually make it into the final OS, I think we can all agree, 256 cores is enough for anybody." This Mark Russinovich interview has some technical details (Silverlight required).
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Windows 7 To Be 256-Core Aware

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  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:11AM (#25601947)

    While one has to wonder, like with Vista, how many of the teased features will actually make it into the final OS

    If you're going by their track record, it's an easy answer: None.

    • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

      by westbake (1275576) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:55AM (#25602193) Homepage

      Can you imagine a beowolf cluster of those?

      Neither can I.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Khuffie (818093) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:42AM (#25602419) Homepage
      To be fair, I think Microsoft this time around have been really careful with what they promise for Windows 7. Seems like they learned from their mistakes with Vista, and now that they have a stable, solid kernel (whether you'd like to believe it or not), a lot of the headaches from Vista's development are simply not there.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DannyO152 (544940) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:03AM (#25602523)
        Yes, this decade has been about TCDGADA (The customers do give a damn about:). First networking inflexibility, then security, then interface, then performance. Now if we can hold their feet to the fire about crippleware (five editions, only one with the all the features that matter), file formats, and equitable interoperability, Windows might become a product we work with instead of around.
        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

          by Khuffie (818093) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:08AM (#25602549) Homepage
          Ya, I really wish they get rid of their multiple editions. I see only need for Windows 7 and Windows 7 Server (and even if they want to stretch it, Windows 7 Home and Windows 7 Business/Pro like they did in XP), but 5 versions are ridiculous.
          • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

            by David_W (35680) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @11:08AM (#25602955)

            I really wish they get rid of their multiple editions. I see only need for Windows 7 and Windows 7 Server

            Heck, I wish they'd go further than that. I think there should only be Windows 7, period. If you want to have different sets of optimizations for desktop/server/home/corporate use, make it something you configure in control panel, not something you need a different version of the OS for.

            • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

              by Bungie (192858) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @02:53PM (#25604583)

              The Vista DVD pretty much does that. It contains the files for all 5 versions and the key you enter when you install determines which version of Vista will be configured. So you can install Vista Ultimate from the Vista Home DVD, if you use an Ultimate key. This also allows you to perform the "anytime upgrade" to a higher version if you buy it.

              The server components are not present however because Windows Server is configured a lot differently. For example, Windows XP is version 5.1 and Windows Server 2003 is version 5.2. Although they contain many of the same features their configuration is a lot different (ie. Windows server has no themes service or system restore and is set to prioritize background processes over foreground). Some people [msfn.org] have configured Windows Server as a workstation but there are a lot of steps involved just to get it to XP style functionality. The kernel and services are also different to optimize the system for serving or workstation tasks.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by bertok (226922)

                That's marketing bullshit.

                I'm one of the people who runs Windows 2008 Server on a laptop, and I can tell you now, it's Vista with a higher retail price-tag.

                Microsoft has been releasing server builds that are virtually identical to the desktop editions for years now. Windows XP 64-bit uses Windows 2003 service packs. Windows 2008 uses Vista drivers, the server editions have the DirectX gaming APIs, the workstation editions can serve file and web pages, etc...

                The only difference in server is different initial

          • by bazorg (911295)
            MS needs the many different versions as a sales aid but also to react to litigation about bundling products. Vista Home Basic will have less things bundled compared to Windows 7 "home", unless they get away with selling stuff like notepad as a subscription service.

            The accessory components that will be bundled as part of the "basic" pack will increase to keep up with what's standard with competitor's OSs.

      • by Johnny Loves Linux (1147635) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:20AM (#25602643)
        Based on the announcements on Windows 7 and the reviews I thought too that they had improved the performance of Windows 7 vs. Vista. Then I found an article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols that might explain the "glowing" reviews at Microsoft's PDC. It seems that Microsoft may have permanently "loaned" $2,000 laptops with 2.4GHz Intel dual cores + 3GB ram to the "reviewers" to review Windows 7. If so, that's not the first time they tried that stunt (Vista was the first that I recall). So in the answer to the question, "Can a leopard change its spots?" if the above is correct then the answer in Microsoft's case seems to be "No." Here's the url: http://blogs.computerworld.com/microsoft_bribes_again [computerworld.com]
        • by Khuffie (818093) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:40AM (#25602779) Homepage
          Erm, they also gave out disks, and some have installed it on lower hardware. See here [downloadsquad.com] where they install it on a Celeron lappy. Microsoft demonstrated it running on a netbook [gizmodo.com]. I can't remember where, but I recall reading a review of Windows 7 where they installed it on a laptop with 1 gig of ram, and said it ran as smooth as XP on the machine.

          Not to mention, giving out a laptop with known devices and hardware for a pre-beta built isn't exactly out of the ordinary. That way Microsoft can ensure that all the devices and drivers on that laptop are actually supported (remember: PRE-BETA). Not to mention the specs for those computers aren't exactly out of the ordinary now, and will be either standard or 'underpowered' two years from now when Windows 7 will be released.

          But your point is moot anyway, since they've already given out installer discs, and people have installed it on a variety of hardware and still were impressed with the performance.
        • Fair enough (Score:3, Informative)

          by westlake (615356)
          I found an article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols that might explain the "glowing" reviews at Microsoft's PDC. It seems that Microsoft may have permanently "loaned" $2,000 laptops with 2.4GHz Intel dual cores + 3GB ram to the "reviewers" to review Windows 7.

          .

          Entry level for a 64 Bit Vista laptop with a 2 GHz Intel dual core CPU and 4 GB RAM is $812 at Walmart.com: Laptops-4 GB RAM [walmart.com]

          Walmart.com lists 25 dual-core laptops with 4 GB of RAM.

          18 run 64 Bit Vista.

          It's become trivially easy to meet Vista's hardwa

      • "Seems like they learned from their mistakes with Vista, and now that they have a stable, solid kernel (whether you'd like to believe it or not), a lot of the headaches from Vista's development are simply not there."

        The headaches from Vista's development were because they wasted 3 years trying to rewrite the kernel and had to scrap all of it and do a full reset...they had a (relatively) stable solid kernel the whole time...it's just that they didn't try to rewrite it this time around.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:15AM (#25601957)

    (Silverlight required).

    My browser already supports audio, video, vector graphics and a scripting language.

    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:20AM (#25602311) Homepage

      So why the limit?

      Are they only having a byte to store the core ID?

      Today it's feasible to build yourself a machine with 32 cores using 4-core AMD:s 4-core processors and a Tyan n4250QE [tyan.com.tw] with a M4985 [tyan.com.tw] daughterboard. This will give you 64 cores to play with.

      In a not too far future we will see processors with a larger number of cores and therefore we will soon bang our heads into that wall. At least those of us that toy with parallelism.

      • I'm sure by the time 256 cores is the 'norm' on grandma's desktop, Windows 7 will be old news :-)

        • by SunTzuWarmaster (930093) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:12AM (#25602575) Homepage

          You are missing the point. You can BUY 8 cores right now for your grandma from Dell.

          This means that businesses are buying 64 core machines and up for things like graphics rendering, real-time image processing, and server loads. Hell, the place I work for has a 64 core machine for handling E-mail remotely.

          Within a 1-2 years, even people that WANT to run Microsoft products in a high-end environment will not be able to.

          Yes, you are correct, Grandma will not have a 256 core machine on Windows 7, and will probably not face that choice. However, many things that she interacts with (her E-mail, or ebay, for instance) will not even be supported.

          • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @12:28PM (#25603467) Journal

            Which I think shows what I have been saying for awhile now,which is that since Ballmer took over they have lost their way by focusing on the home rather than the enterprise. I mean just look at what they have been throwing their weight behind in the last few years: You have Zune=iPod,Xbox=Apple TV, and there is no way that anyone even thought of business needs once when they made Vista. Aero in a business OS? WTF?

            IMHO Microsoft under Ballmer has forgotten what made them the 800 pound gorilla in the first place. It was business that bought the long term contracts and support agreements. It was business that bought huge amounts of hardware every 3 years(thus making their customers the OEMs happy) and finally it was business that sat their OS in front of millions of users who then wanted the same OS at home because that was what they were used to.

            Hopefully getting laughed at with the Vista debacle has taught them a few lessons. And if this 256 core limit is strictly for the desktop,and they don't cripple their brand by releasing 5 different versions with different levels of crippling to confuse the buyers,then it might sell well. IMHO there should be no more than 3 versions,Home,Business,and volume licensed Enterprise,but going back to Home and Pro would be best. But with the rate of cores seeming to jump almost weekly if the server has that limit it could really be bad news. After all the Intel roadmap already has 8 and 12 core versions on it,and IIRC that only goes to 2011. With a server it is expected to last at least 5 years,and with the market in a downturn Win7 really needs to shine and cut down on the confusion and BS that we saw with Vista. As someone who has to work on Windows machines I personally hope they got their act together. Because it is bad enough trying to find XP drivers for the Vista boxes that folks bring in to be changed,I don't want to even think about having to do that in 2011.

            • by Idiomatick (976696) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @01:24PM (#25603941)

              Xbox=Apple TV
              Rofl... apple tv was such a threat they made xbox? I dunno what fantasy land you live in but xbox was definitely about video games not a flopping piece of garbage that sold what .5million?

          • by dontmakemethink (1186169) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @01:50PM (#25604131)

            You are missing the point. You can BUY 8 cores right now for your grandma from Dell. This means that businesses are buying 64 core machines and up for things like graphics rendering, real-time image processing, and server loads. Hell, the place I work for has a 64 core machine for handling E-mail remotely.

            Yes but once you go past 64 it probably makes more sense to cluster several boxen rather than put all your cores in one basket. Four 64-core boxes clustered can operate at 75% while updating each box independently, where one 256-core box comes to a grinding halt for every security update.

  • Enough? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Fex303 (557896) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:15AM (#25601959)

    I think we can all agree, 256 cores is enough for anybody.

    I just put the finishing touches on my 257 core machine, you insensitive clod!

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:16AM (#25601963) Homepage

    Suggestion for new /. poll. Who has installed Silverlight? (Silverlight required)

  • Linux: 4096 (Score:5, Informative)

    by setagllib (753300) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:19AM (#25601979)

    The most recent mainline Linux release has integrated mature patches for 4096 core scalability, that have been developed by high performance computing corporations and tested in the field for years. Previous versions were rated for "only" 1024 cores. That still makes 256 look like a Gameboy.

    It must be really hard for Microsoft to compete in the HPC space. I almost feel bad for them. Almost.

    • by BeShaMo (996745) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:34AM (#25602071)

      The most recent mainline Linux release has integrated mature patches for 4096 core scalability, that have been developed by high performance computing corporations and tested in the field for years. Previous versions were rated for "only" 1024 cores. That still makes 256 look like a Gameboy.

      It must be really hard for Microsoft to compete in the HPC space. I almost feel bad for them. Almost.

      I think these comparisons have to stop. They give Linux an unfair bias. Linux does not have to spend resources on things like cool names their releases, and wages for people with excellent chairthrowing abilities, so naturally they can instead use the resources on developing software. Come back when each release of Linux is given inspiring names like Linux XP and they have proper chairthrowing capabilities, then we shall make a fair assesment.

    • Re:Linux: 4096 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:40AM (#25602099)

      It's a moot point. It's likely that processors will eventually have more than 256 cores, but that's going to take a long time, I'm not necessarily convinced that we will. At some point we will hit the smallest possible transister size and I'm not sure that will leave physical room for all the extra cores without moving to a much larger chip size.

      That being said, if we're still using Windows 7 when mainstream computers have more than 256 cores there's something very wrong going on. Linux probably will need that kind of scalability, but it's because of the sort of rolling release schedule where releases are expected to be based upon the previous version, if loosely at times.

      • Re:Linux: 4096 (Score:5, Informative)

        by eclectus (209883) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:56AM (#25602491) Homepage

        It won't take too long. Sun's T2 chip has 64 threads, and the T5440 that I have at the office has 4 chips in it, for 256 threads, all in a 4u chassis. Granted, it doesn't run windows, but seriously CMT chips are out and growing fast. BTW, the T2 cpu is only about an inch quare, and it's only done on 65nm tech, not even 40nm.

    • by Mia'cova (691309)

      256 is not a set maximum. It's a target for consumer applications. It's about breaking the major windows subsystems down to work with many cores. 4096 processor scalability is great. But how much benefit would you see in KDE and open office if you could drop a 4096 core 2 duo in your machine right now?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by man_of_mr_e (217855)

      Actually, i think you're confusing cores with nodes. NUMA is multi-processor architecture, and I believe the Linux kernel can support up to 4096 NUMA nodes (that is NUMA processors). Theoretically, those processors could also be multi-core.

      My understanding is that 256 is the largest number of cores Intel and AMD have "defined" for the architecture, so I don't see how any OS could claim support for more than 256 cores.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:20AM (#25601983) Journal

    .... testing the waters via marketing that which may or not come into some form of existence.

    They use the same tactic as well, to help suppress any interest a competitor might be getting with some technology by claiming they are doing the same, where often enough they kill teh support teh competitor was getting while never producing that which they claimed they were doing.

    So take this current claim in such a light and you'll know "believe it when you know you have it and are using it, not even a split second before".

  • Yeah right ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Luscious868 (679143) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:28AM (#25602029)
    I won't believe a thing Microsoft says about Windows 7 until I see it. Microsoft is like a political candidate running for office. It makes a ton of promises you know it'll never keep.
  • Memory scaling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FourthAge (1377519) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:29AM (#25602035) Journal

    How will Vista (and, indeed, Linux) manage memory across so many cores? The machine can't be SMP, because you can't maintain data cache coherence across more than about eight cores. So it has to have a completely new memory model. I wonder how this can be achieved without major changes to the kernel?

    • Re:Memory scaling (Score:5, Informative)

      by setagllib (753300) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:42AM (#25602109)

      Linux supports NUMA which largely solves that problem, and ccNUMA which solves it even better. It's all about locality once again. Linux has been running on multi-thousand CPU machines for years, and has been optimised and refined by the stakeholders of those projects, so it's not a toy project to show off.

      • Re:Memory scaling (Score:5, Informative)

        by jargon82 (996613) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:10AM (#25602261)
        I'm reasonably sure 64 bit windows supports NUMA as well. I've worked with the IBM x3950, which is a NUMA architecture, and several of the folks (the minority, to be sure) whom I configured these systems for ultimately used windows.
      • by drspliff (652992)

        Microsoft has also supported NUMA (in some form) in their server systems since Windows 2000, yet I don't think any of the big players support Windows (e.g. on SGI Altix systems) and it's very unlikely that Microsoft will gain any ground in this area.

        All their HPC efforts seem to be towards homogeneous sets of boxen... still I wonder what the NT task manager would look like with 1024 cores!

    • by Znork (31774)

      AMD Opteron and Intels upcoming CPUs support NUMA, or rather ccNUMA. That basically syncs only areas cached in multiple caches. OS support for that isn't extremely complex; it becomes mainly an issue of minimizing the situations where multiple caches cache the same memory.

    • by 32771 (906153)

      This post is somewhat redundant now but I have been wondering about the same thing and then I found out about NUMA:

      http://lse.sourceforge.net/numa/ [sourceforge.net]

      If you are looking for a NUMA machine running Linux have a look at this.

      http://www.sgi.com/products/servers/altix/4000/ [sgi.com]

      If you check out citeseer you might find that the name NUMA came up around 1989. I couldn't find it any earlier. So whatever a 256 core processor will look like, it doesn't have to be something new.

      It seems like it should be possible to use alrea

  • by JohnnyGTO (102952) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:43AM (#25602115) Homepage
    if I had a machine with 256 cores I would be using an OS that fit the dedicated process I was coding for, not one that added to the overhead.
  • Non-silverlight URL (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Paste into VLC, mplayer etc: mms://mschnlnine.wmod.llnwd.net/a1809/d1/ch9/9/1/1/5/3/4/RussinovichInsideWindows7_s_ch9.wmv

  • Presumably they will eventually release Crysis 2.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:49AM (#25602161)

    The only useful apps bundled with Windows. Please don't mess with them, primitive as they may be.

  • by mikkelm (1000451)

    .. how many of the people complaining here are going to run Windows 7 with more than 256 cores? No, really, I'd love to know why.

    • by deniable (76198)

      Maybe Microsoft are being realistic about the development time for Windows 8. If it's as long as NT 5 (eventually renamed Win2k) or Vista, we may have 256 cores by the time 8 is done.

  • Available to today already:
    http://blogs.sun.com/sistare/entry/solaris_for_the_t5440 [sun.com]

    But I don't see a port of Windows7 to SPARC on the horizon, so there's hardly something to compare here...

  • by Nimey (114278) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:49AM (#25602447) Homepage Journal

    and was impressed by how much they'd slimmed down Windows 7.

  • ...but 256 core PERFORMANCE is not.

    Overhead for an O.S. to manage memory and I/O contention rises dramatically *way* down in the CPU-count scale (like around 8 CPUs). It is one thing to let those CPUs be available to the exclusive use of a particular CPU-aware application, such as a custom video frame rendering app. But give an application-ignorant O.S. the job of keeping processes from stepping on each other in a 256-way box and you'll see a box whose primary workload is lock and wait management.

    It's not s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... who read the headline as "Windows 7 to be 256 color aware".

    Actually, it's only funny until thinking about it. Too bad.

  • by smchris (464899) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:10AM (#25602561)

    Obviously, there will be 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and 256 versions. Features vary. Standard upgrade rules on the first four relative to Vista, then they can premium price the last five as "Corporate", "Super-Corporate", "Hyper-Corporate", "Gold" and "Platinum". Should be simple enough.

  • Zounds! (Score:3, Funny)

    by g0dsp33d (849253) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:08AM (#25610137)
    Why thats a whopping 2.5 k of memory per core!

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington

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