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A 48-core chip from Intel 2009-Dec-27 at 23:11 PST

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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Today’s laptop and desktop computers come standard with dual-core architectures… in other words, they have two CPU’s on one chip.  Fortunately, Windows, Unix, and even Mac OS have been able to support multiprocessor machines for well over a decade, so in many ways we’ve smoothly taken advantage of this new processing power.

Now Intel has demonstrated an experimental 48-core CPU with all kinds of interesting new architecture features to allow for as much data as possible to flow through the chip.

While Intel will integrate key features in a new line of Core-branded chips early next year and introduce six- and eight-core processors later in 2010, this prototype contains 48 fully programmable Intel processing cores, the most ever on a single silicon chip. It also includes a high-speed on-chip network for sharing information along with newly invented power management techniques that allow all 48 cores to operate extremely energy efficiently at as little as 25 watts, or at 125 watts when running at maximum performance (about as much as today’s Intel processors and just two standard household light bulbs).

Intel plans to gain a better understanding of how to schedule and coordinate the many cores of this experimental chip for its future mainstream chips. For example, future laptops with processing capability of this magnitude could have “vision” in the same way a human can see objects and motion as it happens and with high accuracy.

Moore’s Law suggests the doubling of computing capacity (in not so many words) every 18 months.  That means that in ten years we’ll have nearly seven doublings… or an increase in computing capacity of 128 times for the same price.  If we’re on two-core machines now (with 4GB RAM), and we’re about to get mainstream four-core CPU’s (a doubling) then by 2020 we’ll have computers on our desks with 256 cores (and 1TB RAM) — in other words, low-end supercomputers by today’s standards — for the same $1,000 we spend today to get two cores.

This announcement from Intel is the down payment on this vision… a mainstream 48-core system is around 4 doublings of capacity away, or about six years, and a high-end, higher-cost version of it will come a couple of years sooner.  When you think about chips like this not just on your laptop, but also in your mobile phone, the possibilities start to get very interesting.  When you think about chips like this filling servers in massive cloud-computing data centers, things get very exciting, don’t they?

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Comments»

1. Todd - 2009-Dec-30 at 09:01 PST

Just put a full-blown computer in my pocket and I’ll be happy.


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