The Tera-Scale Teraflop Prototype chip looks promising for the future - energy efficiency is a major focal point.
Intel's research team has managed to successfully produce a prototype 80-core Tera-Scale processor that uses less energy than the company's current flagship Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core processor
The prototype was built so that the chip giant's researchers could investigate the best way to make such a large number of processing cores communicate with each other. This was in addition to researching new architectural techniques and core designs.
The chip, dubbed the Tera-Scale Teraflop Prototype, is just for research purposes and lacks a lot of necessary functionality
at the moment. However, R&D Technology Strategist Manny Vara said that the company will be able to produce 80-core chips en masse
in five to eight years.
Currently, the prototype chip consumes less than 100W of power, which is less than the 130W consumed by the quad-core QX6700. Of course, the prototype currently lacks some key functionality, which could potentially throw the power consumption characteristics out of proportion, but it's an impressive feat nonetheless.
Vara added that although there are many more cores on the Tera-Scale prototype, they're a different type of core than the ones used in today's microprocessors. "The new ones will be much simpler. You break the core's tasks into pieces and each task can be assigned to a core. Even if the cores are simpler and slower, you have a lot more of them so you have more performance."
Today's microprocessor cores are very flexible, while Intel believes that tomorrow's microprocessor cores will be much more specialised, but of course, there will be many more of these simpler cores. AMD's Fusion project appears to be going down the route of scaling what we've already got, while Intel is moving towards what would be a more flexible approach to energy efficiency.
Before you get too excited though, this is all on paper at the moment; the real war of the cores
won't be decided until both companies have released their respective massively multi-core processing architectures in a few years time.