Artificial intelligence acceleration start-up Cerebras Systems has taken the wraps off what it claims is the largest computer chip ever made at a whopping 46,225 square millimetres and 1.2 trillion transistors.

Moore's Law began life as an observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a leading-edge chip trended towards a doubling roughly every 18 months. Since its publication, the observation has become a must-hit target for the industry - and the industry has responded by making the components that go into a chip ever smaller, to avoid the issue of eventually having football-field-sized processors.

Cerebras Systems, however, has taken a different approach: It has unveiled the world's largest single silicon-based processor, the Cerebras Wafer-Scale Engine, which measures a whopping 215mm per side or 46,225 square millimetres and packs 1.2 trillion transistors - more than 56 times the size and number of transistors of Nvidia's hefty Volta graphics processors.

'Designed from the ground up for AI work, the Cerebras WSE contains fundamental innovations that advance the state-of-the-art by solving decades-old technical challenges that limited chip size—such as cross-reticle connectivity, yield, power delivery, and packaging,' claims Andrew Feldman, founder and chief executive of Cerebras Systems. 'Every architectural decision was made to optimise performance for AI work. The result is that the Cerebras WSE delivers, depending on workload, hundreds or thousands of times the performance of existing solutions at a tiny fraction of the power draw and space.'

Designed for training neural networks, the chip has a total of 400,000 'Sparse Linear Algebra Cores' which lack traditional cache; instead, they are connected to 18 gigabytes of high-speed static RAM (SRAM) distributed throughout the chip and with a claimed overall bandwidth of nine petabytes per second. The cores work together through a mesh communication network dubbed Swarm with a claimed 100 petabits per second bandwidth, while the chip itself is manufactured on a 16nm process node at Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC).

More information on the Cerebras WSE is available on the official website.


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