Nancy Lynch
NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ph.D. - MIT.

A multiprocessor is a computer system that includes multiple processors (or cores) working together to perform tasks. In contrast, a single processor system, also known as a uniprocessor, has only one processor. This technology is used in computer engineering to improve the performance and efficiency of computer systems.

There are two main types of multiprocessors, symmetric multiprocessors (SMP) and asymmetric multiprocessors (ASMP). In an SMP system, all processors have equal access to shared memory and can work on any task at any time. This type of multiprocessor is often used in servers and high-performance computing systems.

ASMP systems, on the other hand, have processors with different capabilities and responsibilities. One processor, known as the master processor, controls the system and coordinates the work of the other processors, known as slave processors. This type of multiprocessor is often used in embedded systems and mobile devices.

One of the main advantages of multiprocessors is that they can improve the performance of a computer system by allowing multiple tasks to be performed simultaneously. This can result in faster processing times and more efficient use of resources.

Multiprocessors can also improve the reliability of a system by allowing multiple processors to work together to perform a task. If one processor fails, the others can continue to work, reducing the likelihood of system downtime.

In addition, multiprocessors can also be used to improve the energy efficiency of a system. By allowing multiple processors to work together to perform a task, a multiprocessor can reduce the overall power consumption of a system.

Another important application of multiprocessors is in parallel computing, where multiple processors are used to perform a single task simultaneously, breaking it into smaller subtasks. This can significantly increase the speed of the computation and is widely used in scientific simulations, big data analytics, and machine learning.

Overall, multiprocessors play a key role in the computer engineering field, providing significant improvements in performance, efficiency, and reliability to the computer systems. As technology continues to evolve, multiprocessors will likely become even more important in the future.