Intel is looking into the world of the massively parallel with the announcement of a 48-core single-chip processor.
As reported by CNET's Deep Tech blog
, the chip giant went public yesterday with a 48-core, 1.3 billion transistor processor it calls the Single-Chip Cloud Computer - a product of the company's Tera-Scale Research Project, and a more modern successor to the 80-core Polaris chip
the project created a few years ago.
Interestingly, although the main bulk of Intel's planned marketing strategy is right there in the name - cloud computing being the hot topic of the moment, and something which demands an awful lot of individually accessible processing cores at the server end in order to do well - Intel's Chief Technology Officer, Justin Rattner, envisioned a future where a SCC-powered machine would be "capable of understanding the world around them as much as humans do. They will see and hear and probably speak and do a number of other things that resemble human-like capabilities.
The prototype processor contains 24 tiles with two addressable Intel Architecture cores per tile, connected via a mesh network offering 256GB/s bisection bandwidth. Memory access is governed by four on-chip DDR3 memory controllers, and a message buffer is included in each tile for efficient message passing.
The company has obviously thought about power usage with so many cores - albeit underpowered compared to the company's existing range of dual- and quad-core server processors - and has developed the technology for the clock speed of each dual-core tile to run at a frequency independent of any other tile, and groupings of four tiles able to run at a voltage independent of any other group. This allows the entire 48-core chip to be run at power draws of between 25W at idle and 125W under full load.
If you think the tiled design seems strangely familiar, you're right: last month, high-performance computing specialist Tilera announced its own tile-based processor which featured an impressive 100 cores
, again with individually addressable power requirements.
Intel fellow Jim Held stated in a blog post
that "SCC is an ideal test-bed to explore parallel programming approaches for the mainstream as well as how the Cloud computing performance could be improved with an on-die architecture that reflects the larger Cloud,
" and revealed successful tests "with Linux on each core, running an application using Hadoop.
If you'd like to see the announcement in full, Intel has kindly provided a video
Do you believe that the future of the server is in many, slower cores - or will the world always need powerhouse chips? Share your thoughts over in the forums