If triple-core, quad-core, and even six-core processors just aren't doing it for you any more perhaps it's time to look beyond the mainstream duopoly: high-performance computing specialist Tilera has announced the creation of a 100-core chip.
As reported over on V3.co.uk
, the manufacturer has claimed a world first with the production - due for commercial release in 2011 - of a processor with one hundred individually addressable cores. While the performance of each core on its own is less than that of a traditionally designed processor at between 1GHz and 1.5GHz with 256K L2 cache, the company claims that the overall performance is four times greater than anything else available today while offering up to ten
times the performance per watt.
Omid Tahernia, Tilera's chief executive, believes that high-performance computing users will be able to "replace an entire board presently using a dozen or more chips with just one of our TILE-Gx processors, greatly simplifying the system architecture and resulting in reduced cost, power consumption, and PC board area.
The design of the TILE-Gx chip means that the grid of one hundred addressable cores can be individually toggled into multiple power states in order to conserve energy while idle, and each core can access the resources available to other cores - meaning it's easy for a process to spread across multiple cores. Furthermore, the chip can be configured to run a single operating system across all cores or a hundred operating systems across a single core each - or anything in between.
With Tilera concentrating firmly on web, cloud, and search services as their target market, operating system support is going to be key. This, sadly, is where the stumbling block currently lies: the design of the chip is sufficiently novel that significant work will need to be done in order to port current software and operating systems - including Linux and Windows, the two most popular choices for web service hosting - across to the new architecture. With that work still to be carried out, it's important that Tilera gets sufficient quantities out to market cheaply enough that developers can get to work as soon as possible - otherwise they'll be faced with attempting to bring a chip to market with no efficient software support for such a large quantity of cores.
Does this seem like the logical progression of multi-core processors, or do you believe that a smaller number of more powerful processing cores is still the way to go? Share your thoughts over in the forums