A ComputerWorld article today laments that many of the most popular business-software packages today don't take full advantage of multicore processors, like the latest silicon beasts from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and AMD (NYSE:AMD). Customers buy powerful new systems, only to have most of the newfound processing power sitting idle while only one of the chip's four processing engines does all the work.

There are many answers to this basic conundrum, but they ultimately boil down to this: The chip makers must do a much better job of educating IT managers and end users on how to make the most of their hardware investments.

The best way to squeeze more juice out of a multicore system is to run a couple of virtual machines on it. VMware (NYSE:VMW), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA), and others stand ready with the software you need to assign each processing core to its own instance (or several for each core) of Windows, Linux, Solaris, or MS-DOS, then fire up power-hungry but simple-minded applications in each one. Soon you'll be ready to fry up some bacon and eggs on the processor's cooling flanges as the entire chip runs red-hot. Mission accomplished! (And delicious!)

Both AMD and Intel keep improving their support for virtualization software with performance-enhancing processor extensions and specialized programming tools. But unless you're a software developer, you'll hardly ever see them reaching out to show you the benefits of virtualization, or how you can take advantage of it.

A more simplistic solution is to just run several applications on the same server. That's not a great way to run mission-critical business software, though -- dueling processes can eat up all your system resources from time to time. Virtualization really is the way to go.

After years of simply cranking up clock speeds, we're not yet used to the concept of increasing processing power by multiplying the number of execution cores. Perhaps the chipmakers do this on purpose, thinking that I'll buy more chips if I believe the ones I've got can't handle the task at hand. That would be backward, though. Throwing more of the same inefficient hardware at the problem will just lead to frustrated customers and more wasted processing power.

Step up your efforts to inform the user, and I think the investment will pay dividends in subtly stronger sales but seriously happier customers. And happy customers come back for more.

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Microsoft and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. VMware is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is an AMD shareholder but holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure knows that information wants to be free.