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Server Processor Subsystems

Server+ Exam Objective 1.14 states that the test taker should understand the processor subsystem of a server. This understanding includes being able to describe

  • Multiprocessing systems

    • What are they?
    • How do they differ from dual-processor systems?
  • 64-bit server environments

    • What are they?
    • Why and when are they important?
  • What are the different architectures?

In determining when and why 64-bit server environments are important, the test taker should consider:

  • Microprocessor bit ratings
  • Database management software
  • WOW64
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Redhat Linux
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
  • Internal registers
  • 64-bit architecture

Server Environments for 64-Bit Processors

When examining information about PCs and servers, their applicable microprocessors are usually rated according to a number of bits, such as 32-bit or 64-bit. This rating is a tipoff as to how powerful or capable its associated computer system is, because a bit represents the smallest unit of information that can exist in a digital environment. A 32-bit rating means that 32 bits of digital data can be processed or transmitted in parallel, for each clock cycle. This rating can also refer to the number of bits used for a single element in the server’s internal data structure.

When used in conjunction with a processor, this term indicates the width of its internal registers, which compose a special, high-speed storage area. All data must be represented in a register before being processed in any way. In order to multiply two numbers, both of the numbers must first reside in specified registers. After multiplication, the result must also be placed in a register. These registers can alternately contain specified memory address locations, where the actual data is stored. The number and size of a given microprocessor’s registers determine its power and its speed. For a 32-bit microprocessor, each internal register is 32 bits wide and each program instruction manipulates 32 bits of data. Obviously, such a processor would also process data and memory addresses represented by 32 bits. The Intel 486 microprocessor, shown in Figure 3.10, is a well-known example of a 32-bit CPU.

Figure 3.10

Figure 3.10 The Intel 486 microprocessor.

A 64-bit rating refers to a processor containing registers that store 64-bit numbers, indicating that a 64-bit server board architecture would process double the amount of data processed for each clock cycle, compared to a 32-bit system. Clients experience a noticeable performance increase due to the ability of the 64-bit microprocessor to handle more memory and larger files. One of the most important benefits of using 64-bit processors is the amount of memory supported by the accompanying system architecture, which is capable of addressing an impressive 1 terabyte (1,000GB) of memory. Compare this with a contemporary 32-bit desktop system, where the maximum amount of RAM supported is 4GB. Many commercial motherboards cannot support even that much RAM, which is shared between any running applications and the operating system (OS) software.

It should be noted that the majority of desktop computers today do not contain as much as 4GB of installed memory. Such amounts are not required to properly use most small business and home desktop computer software. In residential systems, 32-bit operations provide more than adequate processing power, although it is possible in the near future that 4GB of RAM could become a limitation, as more complex software and animated graphical games evolve. However, in scientific and data management industries, the 4GB memory limitations of the 32-bit system have already been reached. Because the need for 64-bit processing has become apparent, major database management software developers, such as Oracle and Microsoft, currently offer 64-bit versions of their database management systems.

The momentum for developing 64-bit systems has come from the commercial networking environment, where larger, faster, more capable servers are in constant demand. The development of 64-bit processors, such as the Intel Itanium has been paralleled by the development of other key components, such as 64-bit operating systems, software, and drivers capable of taking advantage of 64-bit processor features.

These developments provide real benefits to demanding applications such as video encoding, scientific research, and massive database management, where being able to load massive amounts of data into the network server’s RAM memory is required. AMD has also developed a 64-bit microprocessor capable of handling these heavy-duty applications.

In supercomputing and in database management systems, 64-bit architecture has been used for many years. Having to access huge amounts of data, many companies and organizations have already made the transition to 64-bit servers. They support a greater number of larger files, and are capable of effectively loading large enterprise databases into RAM memory for faster searches and data retrieval. By using 64-bit servers, these organizations are capable of supporting many more clients simultaneously on each server. Replacing several 32-bit servers with one 64-bit network server greatly reduces the overall hardware requirements.

The ever-expanding data and performance needs of business, academic, engineering, and scientific organizations push the limits and the capabilities of existing information technology (IT) platforms. Accordingly, advances in processor technology by AMD and Intel have brought the power of 64-bit computing to these PC users.

The capabilities of the x86 architecture have been extended, enabling customers using a 64-bit operating system to seamlessly run 32-bit and cutting edge 64-bit applications. The newer hardware can also be used with today’s standard 32-bit operating systems and applications. Microsoft has developed a new 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional called Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

Windows XP Professional x64 Edition permits users to take advantage of the new 64-bit technology to improve PC or workstation performances. It provides a rich platform on which to integrate both new 64-bit applications and current 32-bit applications using what is called the Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64) x86 emulation layer. The WOW64 subsystem isolates 32-bit applications from 64-bit applications, in order to prevent file and registry collisions. The unique feature about Windows XP Professional x64 Edition processor architecture is its ability to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications equally well.

Server Software Architectures for 64-Bit Processors

Windows XP Professional x64 Edition is designed to address the most demanding business needs of technical workstation users who require large amounts of memory and floating-point performance in areas such as mechanical design and analysis, digital content creation, and scientific and high-performance computing applications. The following business segments should benefit from Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

  • Engineering (CAD/CAM)—Automotive or aerospace design engineers conceptualize designs while meeting stringent design safety requirements. Designers and engineers who use computer-aided design (CAD) and engineering applications will benefit from the large memory support, fast memory throughput, and improved floating-point speeds provided by 64-bit systems. They need these applications to work with larger models in a shorter period of time.
  • Digital Content Creation—Two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) animation and rendering, video editing, and game development are its three major areas. It allows game developers and animators to save time in rendering models or scenes. The ability to view completely rendered models during the development process gives animators and developers the freedom to work at their peak level of creativity.
  • 3D Gaming—Video game developers are at work building exciting 64-bit native games to help them push these limits even further because they hold the potential for significantly accelerated graphics rendering. Game makers build today’s most sophisticated 3D titles around extremely complicated database engines that enable the use of artificial intelligence, and the play of massive-level 3D games, in ways that were not formerly possible.
  • Video Editing—Professional and amateur photographers, web designers, and home PC enthusiasts are increasingly using PCs to do sophisticated video editing and photo manipulation, especially with 64-bit workstations.
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