Tutorial: Intel Parallel Processors Span Gamut Share your comment!

Performance increases in next-generation microprocessors no longer rely on cranking clock speeds–except during Turbo Boost. Instead, speed-ups today come from parallel programming harnessing multi-core hyper-threaded processors, spanning everything from tiny mobiles to massive supercomputers. In fact, all modern Intel central processing units (CPUs) are parallel processors–from the tiny Atom to the mainstay Core i3/i5/i7 to the powerful Xeon

All of Intel’s modern processor families today are parallel processors, from the tiny low-power Atom to mainstay Core i3, i5 and i7, to the Xeon for servers and the many-integrated-core (MIC) Xeon Phi coprocessor.

Programmers at all levels–from embedded to IT—can take advantage of these multi-core parallel processors by writing threaded code that accelerates applications running on everything from smartphones, to Ultrabooks, to servers. Each processor family supports models featuring both Intel’s Turbo-Boost and Hyper-Threading Technologies. The dual-core Atom supports four threads, the Core i7 up to 2 threads and six cores, the Xeon E7 up to 20 threads and 10 cores, and future models of the Xeon Phi coprocessor as many as 256 threads and 64 cores.

For the hardware designer, Intel has support chip sets for every application under the sun, from embedded processors controlling machine tools, to consumer-tablets, Ultrabooks and smartphones, to micro-servers setting new standards in energy efficiency, to the most powerful supercomputer installations in the world.

And for the programmer, Intel also has added a wealth of special on-chip features to simplify application development, from embedded and automotive, to digital signage and retailing, to intelligent systems and IT.

For instance, client security can be ensured by choosing a Core or Xeon model with vPro. These allow a programmer’s algorithms to make use of hardware support for tamper-resistance, two-factor authentication, encryption/decryption. Intel’s Identity Protection Technology ensures validation of a user’s identity when logging-in by protecting access points using the public-key infrastructure.

For server security, choose a Xeon model supporting Intel’s Trusted Execution Technology. TXT protects data centers and hybrid clouds by establishing a hardware-based root of trust. This lets a programmer pre-launch software components that are “known good”, thus mitigating cyber-attacks on the BIOS, firmware and other system-level components.

For next-generation virtualization applications, models of both Core and Xeon processors support Intel’s hardware-assisted Virtualization Technology (VT), which securely transfers platform control between guest operating systems and virtual machine manager (VMM hypervisor). Together with Intel Active Management Technology (AMT), programmers can centrally manage and provision any number of virtual clients accessing a master image on the server. And embedded applications, such as medical devices, can ensure the safety of patient data by using VT to isolate it from prying eyes.

And for the new era of intelligent systems–from wireless sensor nodes to age-in-place activity monitors for the elderly–choose the ultra-low power Atom, which can power smart systems that consume a fraction of the power required by convention systems-on-chip (SoC). Atom SoCs can serve embedded applications from smartphones that can run the whole gamut of x86 application code, to digital signage that recognizes the viewer’s gender/age and changes its content appropriately.

Posted on January 31, 2013 by R. Colin Johnson, Geeknet Contributing Editor