Quad Core = Hard Core ?

So there I am specifying a some infrastructure for a customer who prefers HP hardware: the pricing/performance sweet spot still seems to be multi-core dual cpu so my choices are Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron. Well despite my normal preference for Opteron it seems that Intel’s 5000 series Xeon’s are offering the best performance and lowest power consumption at the moment.
So Xeon it is then, but behold, the quad cores are finally available with some decent clock speeds, so it seems like a no brainer :- 8 core performance for the price of 4 cores, how cool is that. πŸ™‚

So specification complete, I send it off to the customer and what’s the first thing that comes back ?
We don’t want quad core because we don’t want to spend the extra on Windows 2003 x64 Enterprise edition.
Of course, I get on the phone with them to see what the issue is and discover that the customer is looking at the specification on the MS site, where it clearly states that Standard Edition of 2003 x64 supports only 4 processors.

Immediately I think; “What they really mean is physical processors – number of cores don’t matter”, but to my surprise and frustration I can’t find the answer to my question anywhere. I contact my licensing expert, who can’t help me either. So it seems like I’m stuck with the possibility of having to purchase 2003 Enterprise Edition for a dual processor machine.
So this seems like a good time for a motivational exercise amongst the infrastructure team – the person who finds the answer to the question gets……. well nothing extra actually, but I’ll be really happy.

So several hours and some furious googling later – the facts are revealed and of course I felt it was my mission to share it with you all.

If the Server has….
* 4 single-core processors
* 4 single-core hyperthreaded processors
* 4 dual-core processors
* 4 quad-core processors

…then Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is currently sufficient.

So here is the document MS Multicore Brief – enjoy πŸ™‚

So it seems that for up to 16 core’s on 4 physical CPU’s Windows Server 2003 Standard will suffice – I almost feel like I’m getting something for nothing here.

– Thomas

  1. #1 by Lee Hill on May 10, 2007 - 2:21 pm

    Many thanks, been looking for this info for ages..

  2. #2 by Moorthy on July 19, 2007 - 3:52 pm

    Hi Thomas, That was was a saving document for me …thanks … standard can support 2 Quad core CPU’s…!!!

  3. #3 by Thomas Gaffney on July 19, 2007 - 4:04 pm

    welcome – now if I can only persuade someone to buy me that dual processor quad core desktop that I *need* πŸ˜‰

  4. #4 by Stuart on August 3, 2007 - 7:48 am

    Cracking. Spent ages looking for this – exactly what I needed. Now off to spend some of the companies money on a nice new server with a couple of quad-cores for good measure. Cheers πŸ™‚

  5. #5 by JRumley on September 19, 2007 - 9:00 pm

    I really appreciated your blog! It was helpful in explaining to our internal service organization how Microsoft views hyperthreading and multi-core CPUs with its Server OS.

    This was GREAT.

  6. #6 by MikeMac on October 9, 2007 - 7:21 pm

    I thought maybe I found the answer to my question…..but one still remains. While I know 2003 Standard will run on a system with 2 dual core processors, will it take advantage of all 8 cores? That is based of a document I saw on Microsoft’s site referrining to licensing where it said “while all the listed systems [of which 2003 Standard Edition was one] will support and run on 2 quad core CPU’s, they will not necessarily take advantage of all 8 cores”. So does it or doesn’t it use all the processing power?

  7. #7 by MikeMac on October 9, 2007 - 7:23 pm

    Here is the line I was referring to in the Microsoft Multi-Core Brief you linked:

    “Note that while this brief identifies certain software products and versions that run on multicore and hyperthreaded processors, it does not address their ability to fully utilize those technologies.”

  8. #8 by Thomas Gaffney on October 10, 2007 - 12:51 pm

    MikeMac – I guess I don’t really understand your question – if you install software on the box that can handle 8 cpu’s and hyperthreading, then it will take advantage of them even on Win 2003 Standard (for example VMware Server). Conversely if you put some single threaded software on there – it won’t take advantage of the extra cores.

    The statement from the brief I linked to is a standard disclaimer, “just because we mention software X in a document which mentions 4 cores x 4 cpus, doesn’t necessarily mean that software can exploit all those cpu’s”
    AFAIK the OS itself places no limits on the utilisation of the cores.

  9. #9 by rdub on December 20, 2007 - 3:43 am

    4 x quad core R900 DELL server for my db now! 16 cores ftw

  10. #10 by Mike Miller on January 18, 2008 - 9:51 am

    Cheers man, seriously this has saved me soem grief.

  11. #11 by Marcelo on May 28, 2008 - 4:40 pm

    Thank you…..
    I’ve been searching for this a lot of time…..

  12. #12 by Daniel on May 29, 2008 - 10:18 am

    Thanks for that info, you’ve saved me a lot of time!

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