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Microsoft has focused on strong multicore support in Windows 7 to deliver superior performance. These improvements will really kick in when developers start using Visual Studio 2010, a software development suite that offers greatly improved tools to leverage the power of multiple CPUs.

Jon Devaan is head of Windows Core Operating System Division and led the Windows 7 multicore improvements.  (Source: CNET)
The company is taking multi-core performance very seriously

Microsoft is ready to put the Windows Vista era behind it and is moving on to a Windows 7 world starting October 22. Among Windows 7's greatest strengths is a combination of power and efficiency.  Faster and with new APIs like DirectX 11, the new OS looks to deliver impressive results, assuming driver makers can live up to their end of the bargain and write efficient drivers for the new OS. 

One strength of Windows 7 that's not always talked about, but is lurking under the surface of many of the operating system's advancements is its improved use of multiple cores.  With Intel and AMD flooding the market with multi-core designs, the gigahertz war is dead and a new war is brewing -- a battle for the most cores, and the most efficient cores.

Microsoft has enthusiastically jumped on the opportunity to utilize this power with Windows 7.  The new OS can support up to 256 cores, versus 64 in Vista.  Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System Division says this change was particularly weighty.  He states, "One dimension is support for a much larger number of processors and getting good linear scaling on that change from 64 to 256 processors.  There's all kinds of depth in that change."

The improvements that enabled the increased number of cores also will improve performance with standard consumer numbers of cores -- typically 2 to 4 -- via improvements in cache and workload balancing.  Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 also features greatly improved support for multi-threading and should allow Windows applications makers to make more efficient Windows 7 apps that leverage multiple cores.

Evans Data analyst Janel Garvin says that is perhaps the most important change.  He states, "An operating system is never going to be able to take an application that isn't already parallel and make it so. Developers still need to multi-thread their apps.  Microsoft has done surprisingly little until recently to help developers write parallel applications, except for their alliance with Intel to promote Parallel Studio."

He continues, "However, in the last year they've made some announcements and promises for Visual Studio 2010 about enhanced tools for parallel programming. It's likely that the success of Parallel Studio has impressed upon them the importance of providing Windows developers with the tools they need to remain competitive going into the future when manycore will be the standard."

Visual Studio 2010 offers many improvements including Task Parallel Library (used for performing tasks like loops simultaneously when circumstances permit), Parallel Language Integrated Query (PLINQ) (used for parallel data operations), Microsoft Concurrency Runtime (scheduling and resource management), Asynchronous Agents Library (provides improved inter-thread messaging), and finally the Parallel Pattern Library (geared for C++ users).

Despite the vast improvements even Mr. DeVaan acknowledges the art of exploiting multiple cores is still evolving.  He adds, "As an industry, we're going to be working hard to make it work better and working with broad set of developers to target (multicore programming) without undue work.  Will these approaches really accomplish it? That's an open question."

With Microsoft's primary competitor Apple also focusing on multi-threading with its developer-geared Grand Central Dispatch multitasking model built into Snow Leopard, the ability to properly leverage multiple cores is a crucial task for Windows 7.  And it appears that the upcoming OS will be rising to the occasion.

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RE: DirectX 1,1
By dflynchimp on 10/13/2009 11:38:44 AM , Rating: 5
exactly. And we have to be realistic here. Given OS refresh rates by the time we actually have 256-core cpus windows 7 will be long replaced with the next revision. It is useless to taut a feature or detract for lack of a feature in an OS that was clearly designed to handle the available hardware in its era of introduction.

Vista saw the beginnings of the multicore era up to 4 cores (8 with hyperthreading on intel), but by the time we have 64-core/thread cpus who's going to be griping about vista hitting its limits? That's like complaining you can't run Crysis on Windows 95

RE: DirectX 1,1
By invidious on 10/13/2009 12:14:40 PM , Rating: 2
While I agree with you in priciple, the legions of people clinging to XP were pretty ticked off when they found out they couldn't take advantage of the 4gb of ram that their motherboards supported. In my opinion this kinda of thing is to be expected when using an OS that is almost a decade old, but that didn't make their complaining any less prevalent.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By exanimas on 10/13/2009 12:27:24 PM , Rating: 2
That's not so much an XP problem as it is a 32-bit operating system problem. Besides, general rule of thumb is that if you know how to use 4GB of RAM with XP, you probably understand why you can't on the 32-bit version.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By totallycool on 10/13/09, Rating: 0
RE: DirectX 1,1
By Ammohunt on 10/13/2009 2:11:06 PM , Rating: 2
Its called PAE which is a hack to get around the 32-bit memory address space limitation intel added a few bits when the pentium pro was introduced essential making the cpu 36-bit. Its not true addressing of the memory. you can add the /3GB switch to XP to enable the PAE functionality to XP i believe.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Smilin on 10/15/2009 2:47:06 PM , Rating: 2
/3GB and /PAE are both available switches in workstation products (xp, 2000pro, vista) but will not allow access to more than 4GB of memory.

The switches are only available in the workstation versions for the purposes of driver development and testing. It is only in the server versions /PAE can help you get past the 4GB physical memory limitation.

Note1: /3GB has nothing to do with physical memory. It merely alters the virtual address space to go from 2/2 to 3/1 for user/kernel.

Note2: /3GB and /PAE should never be used together especially on a box running terminal services. Each depletes system PTEs and when used together can cause a total depletion and a bugcheck.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By DrizztVD on 10/13/2009 2:37:13 PM , Rating: 2
No, that is definitely an XP problem, otherwise explain to me how Windows 2000 Advanced server could access 8GB and Windows 2000 Datacenter server could access 32GB of memory.

Vista 32 bit has the exact same limitation as XP. And I wouldn't be surprised if Win7 32 bit was the same. The reason is quite simple really: Developers don't expect users of these operating systems to use PAE. And with the low-level addressing drivers use, these things will crash if they're not PAE-compatible (or Large-Address aware).

So to improve the experience of the average user and keep the blue screens at bay, there is a configuration file that limits the address space. You can copy this config file out of Windows Server OS and replace it with the existing one to gain the use of PAE-like address sizes. But if your PC crashes after a driver install- I told you so.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/2009 12:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
Er.... 32bit OS has a 4GB memory limit. It has nothing to do with forcing a limitation.

While its easily possible (and is done) to limit the number of CPUs the OS can access. Like Win7 Home = 1CPU, Win Pro/Ultimate = 2CPUs. Or memory access:

basic = 8 GB
Home = 16GB
Pro = 192GB

PAE of course is trying to fix something that is isn't broken... which of course causes problems.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By createcoms on 10/13/2009 1:24:58 PM , Rating: 1
the legions of people clinging to XP were pretty ticked off when they found out they couldn't take advantage of the 4gb of ram that their motherboards supported.

And they had so much more success with the 32-bit flavour of Vista did they?

I was running XP x64 with 8GB of RAM, and observed those with Vista 32-bit hitting various ceilings below 4GB so Vista didn't bring with it some new memory window - that was always a 64-bit issue.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/09, Rating: -1
RE: DirectX 1,1
By DOSGuy on 10/14/2009 4:25:50 AM , Rating: 2
I used Windows Me quite happily for three or four years with no complaints and very few crashes. When I initially switched to XP SP1, it crashed frequently, which came as a huge surprise to me after all of the WinMe bashing. In my case, XP wasn't as stable as WinMe had been until SP2.

Bashing Windows Me and Vista may be popular, but IMHO it makes you look like an idiot. When my customers would tell me that WinMe was crap, I would ask them if they had ever used it and the answer was always no. Meanwhile I used it at home and couldn't have been happier with it. The same thing happened with Vista: everyone hated, but no one had used it. Well, Vista (and Vista drivers) has matured enough that most people aren't bashing it any more, and no one uses Windows 95/98/Me any more, so there's no point in bashing them. I've used every Microsoft operating system since MS-DOS 5.0 and I've had no major problems with any of them.

If you never used Windows Me, then you're bashing an OS you never used and I have no respect for that. If you actually did use it and found it significantly worse than Windows 95 or 98, then you don't know much about computers and I have no respect for that. If you're simply comparing Windows Me to XP, then you're not smart enough to realize that Windows Me is Windows 4 (the same basic OS as Windows 95) and Windows XP is Windows 5 -- so of course Windows XP was better! -- and I have no respect for that. So basically, I just don't respect people who casually bash Me and Vista. Maybe you should reserve that kind of criticism for a Mac forum, or some forum where people are less tech savvy and won't realize that you're an idiot.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By MrPoletski on 10/14/2009 4:36:22 AM , Rating: 3
Ah so you're the guy who managed to get Windows ME to work without crashing!

how did you do it? ;)

RE: DirectX 1,1
By VooDooAddict on 10/14/2009 12:45:17 PM , Rating: 2
It was easy, never had an issue ... after fixing the awful OEM settings (which was also a problem with XP too!)

Just disable WinME's System Restore and you removed most of the problems. On top of that, Disable the "Active Desktop", the new indexing, and use Netscape.

You would be left with what felt like a version of Win98 with slightly better memory performance when RAM was over 128Meg.

Bash WinME because it didn't add anything of significant value ... sure. But bash it because it was unstable? I just never saw the stability problems after disabling the above "features".

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Silver2k7 on 10/14/2009 2:22:08 PM , Rating: 2
if you had to disable features to make it stable
then it was unstable..

weather or not it could be made stable if you know what to disable is another thing altogether =)

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/2009 5:18:07 PM , Rating: 2
Voting down a message that doesn't have trolling, insults or anything "bad" is childish. Get over yourself.

If someone posts a message thinking that Windows XP/2000 are related to Windows9x... they NEED to be corrected.

Especially if they thing XP is version 5.0 and WindowsME is 4.0. That is funny.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By FaaR on 10/14/2009 5:02:03 PM , Rating: 1
I used WinME back in the day, shittiest OS I ever used. A WinME install lasted 6 months tops before it would spontaneously start going buggo and leaking memory like a sieve. It would always get to the point where you couldn't use the PC for more than a few hours before you ran out of conventional memory and "OS resources", at which point icons, buttons etc refused to show up and programs would start crashing due to out of memory errors.

It was total crap. Period.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By AnnihilatorX on 10/14/2009 5:42:38 AM , Rating: 3
However, speed of Vista surpass XP when you have enough RAM, because of the fundamental difference of how Vista uses and perceives RAM.

Vista will cache as much data into RAM as possible, predicting which app you are likely to run, and make frequently used apps launch quicker. This is why it is 'bloated' as you put it. Vista generally launch apps quicker than XP. But as you say, it needs at least 2GB of RAM.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: DirectX 1,1
By EasyC on 10/14/2009 12:24:48 PM , Rating: 4
When I made the jump from XP to Vista there was a 200 pt difference in benchmarks for my machine. A month later when newer ATI drivers came out, the difference wasn't in XP's favor.

Vista is indeed not slower than XP unless you have low specs. Besides, I'll take a bloated OS that runs for years over an OS that needs re-installs like clockwork. XP has a habit of "eating itself" and getting slower...and slower...over time.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/2009 5:14:52 PM , Rating: 2
200pt difference in what?

3dMark? Thats useless. 200points is what.. a frame, or half a frame.

You have to benchmark actual games. Notice serious sites don't use 3DMark.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/2009 5:16:44 PM , Rating: 1
Voting down a message that doesn't have trolling, insults or anything "bad" is childish. Get over yourself.

Post is based on well known constant facts about performance and memory requirements. If Vista wasn't a memory hog, $300 cheap PCs wouldn't come with 3GB of RAM.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: DirectX 1,1
By inighthawki on 10/13/2009 12:38:59 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be a smarter idea to include support for farther into the future than the chances that it won't work because some manufacturing miracle brought about a quick rise in technology? Sure it's easy now to say "that's so unnecessary" but in a few years, 256 cores might be a close reality...

RE: DirectX 1,1
By wsko on 10/13/2009 1:22:36 PM , Rating: 4
A fully loaded workstation/server computer with 8 upcoming octacore Nehalem-EX Xeon processor plus hyperthreading will get you 128 cores. This kind of system is only months away. So it's certainly within Windows 7 lifetime to have support for more than 64 cores.

When you want to run Windows-based scientific simulation software in a powerful workstation machine, you want Windows 7 to be capable of handling all those cores.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By dlapine on 10/13/2009 4:41:02 PM , Rating: 4
Window 7 only supports a max of 2 physical cpus

We're not likely to see any 64 core cpus in the near future, not on consumer systems. So the 128 core support is a marchitechture feature, rather than something really useful when comparing Vista and Windows 7.

As if anyone needed encouragement to leave Vista...

RE: DirectX 1,1
By maxxcool on 10/13/2009 5:27:29 PM , Rating: 5
Correct, you would need a copy of server 2008-r2... which is based entirely on windows-7's kernel.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Frallan on 10/14/2009 6:05:44 AM , Rating: 2
CPUs or Kernels?

Sockets or CPUs?

A bit of confusion here?

Will Win7 support 2 sockets with x kernels in the CPU or will Win7 support 2 kernels?

I guess the first suggestion appies but I would like to know since I haven't touche win7 yet.


RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/2009 7:37:40 AM , Rating: 2
Windows 7 supports 1 or 2 PHYSICAL CPUs, depending on version.

Basic & Home = 1 CPU(It could have 1 core, or 64, doesn't matter)

Pro, Ult & Enterprise = 2 CPUs

Kernels is the "heart" of the OS. Cores are the "brains" of the CPU.

This chart may help:

RE: DirectX 1,1
By maxxcool on 10/13/2009 4:40:00 PM , Rating: 2
You are forgetting that Server 2008 is based on vista, therefore is limited to only supporting 64 cores.

Server 2008-r2 is based on windows-7, and being able to address more than 64 cores is much better when dealing with datacenter's, clusters and what-not.

So not a useless feature at all.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By segerstein on 10/13/2009 9:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
Well, 2008R2 and 7 use exactly the same kernel. They also use same service packs. It's just easier for Microsoft to maintain one codebase and then build 5 different client Windows and 5 server Windows versions with slightly different features.

It also makes things easier for developers and users, compatibility wise.

On a high-end workstation, two-way 12core hyperthreading, you come to 48 logical CPUs. Quite close to the NT 6.0 limit of 64 processors.

On 8-way 12-core system you come to 96 CPUs, no hyperthreading...

RE: DirectX 1,1
By MrPoletski on 10/14/2009 4:30:50 AM , Rating: 2
Supporting more than 64 cores will allow windows 7 to run those large scale server farm style machines. Windows 7, supercomputer edition.. lol

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