Students at the University of California, Davis, have created what they claim to be the first ever microprocessor to boast 1,000 independently programmable cores, complete with independent clocks and pooled memory.

Many-core processing, distinct from the two- to 32-core multi-core processing of CPUs today, is a field of research which it is hoped will lead to significant performance and energy efficiency breakthroughs in the future. The most successful highly-parallel many-core processors are, of course, GPUs, but these were developed specifically for graphics processing and even in their server-centric accelerator board formats are not suited to all forms of processing.

This, its creators claim, is addressed by the new 'KiloCore' processor. Built on a 32nm CMOS process by IBM, the chip was designed by a team at the University of California, Davis, and comes with impressive specifications: 1,000 independent processing cores, capable of running in parallel or entirely independently and clocked at an impressive 1.78GHz average maximum, along with a pooled memory system which does away with the write-then-read bottleneck of typical many-core systems.

The key feature of the new chip, though, is its efficiency. According to Brent Bohnenstiehl, the graduate student behind the core architecture, the KiloCore processor is a hundred times more efficient in terms of performance-per-watt than a modern laptop processor, despite being built on an antiquated process node. A single core draws just 0.7mW, while the entire processor draws 13.1W under load. The team has already developed numerous applications to run on the cores, including wireless codecs, video processing tools, encryption utilities, and datacentre record processing software - anything, in other words, which benefits from a many-core highly-parallel approach.

The team presented its KiloCore research at the VLSI Technology and Circuits Symposium in Honolulu this month, but has not yet announced plans to commercialise the KiloCore nor any partnerships with companies to bring it to market.
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