A different approach to improving a computer's performance is to add extra processors, as in symmetric multiprocessing designs, which have been popular in servers and workstations since the early 1990s. Keeping up with Moore's Law is becoming increasingly challenging as chip-making technologies approach the physical limits of the technology.
In response, the microprocessor manufacturers look for other ways to improve performance, in order to hold on to the momentum of constant upgrades in the market.
A multi-core processor is simply a single chip containing more than one microprocessor core, effectively multiplying the potential performance with the number of cores (as long as the operating system and software is designed to take advantage of more than one processor). Some components, such as bus interface and second level cache, may be shared between cores. Because the cores are physically very close they interface at much faster clock rates compared to discrete multiprocessor systems, improving overall system performance.
In 2005, the first personal computer dual-core processors were announced and as of 2009 dual-core and quad-core processors are widely used in servers, workstations and PCs while six and eight-core processors will be available for high-end applications in both the home and professional environments.
Sun Microsystems has released the Niagara and Niagara 2 chips, both of which feature an eight-core design. The Niagara 2 supports more threads and operates at 1.6 GHz.
High-end Intel Xeon processors that are on the LGA771 socket are DP (dual processor) capable, as well as the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775 also used in the Mac Pro by Apple and the Intel Skulltrail motherboard. With the transition to the LGA1366 and LGA1156 socket and the Intel i7 and i5 chips, quad core is now considered mainstream, but with the release of the i7-980x, six core processors are now well within reach.