Intel to Demonstrate 48-Core Microprocessor

Intels Developers to Showcase "Cloud Computing-on-Chip"

by Anton Shilov
12/02/2009 | 08:37 AM

Developers from Intel Corp. plan to demonstrate the world’s first central processing unit with 48 cores today. The processor is experimental and belongs to Intel Tera-Scale Computing Research program, but Intel claims that the chip has 10 – 20 times higher performance compared to existing Intel Core products.

 

The prototype chip contains 48 independently programmable cores – the largest number ever placed on a single piece of silicon. The microprocessor features new high-speed core-to-core data bus, which is very much needed for multi-core microprocessors, integrated memory controller and so on. What is interesting is that according to the world’s largest chipmaker the prototype only consumes 25W in idle and 125W under full workload, which is inline with today’s central processing unit. It is unclear which process technology is used to make the new prototype chip.

One of the distinct features of the new 48-core experimental chip will be its extreme programmability. Software applications will be able to automatically control the number of cores to use at any given time and operating systems will be able to assign certain cores for auxiliary tasks. Moreover, software will be able to manage power consumption, clock-speed of individual cores or even shut them down when not needed.

The experimental 48-core central processing unit (CPU) will help Intel and software developers to study management and scheduling mechanisms of explicitly multi-core microprocessors in order to get prepared to bring them onto the mass market. Next year, Intel plans to provide software developers more than a hundred of experimental chips for development of new software apps.

The main long-term goal of Intel’s Tera-Scale Computing Research is to enable extreme performance of multi-core CPUs and ensure that software developers have appropriate tools and experience to create programs that boast a higher level of interaction with human beings.

At present Intel has two major x86 processor design centers: in Hillsboro, Oregon and in Haifa, Israel, where all major processor designs are developed. The prototype 48-core microprocessor has been largely developed in Braunschweig, Germany, center that belongs to Intel Labs Europe. The processor core, high-speed core-to-core data bus as well as an optimized energy-efficient memory controller, specifically designed to work with multiple cores were developed in Germany, other parts were created in various Bangalore, India as well as Hillsboro, Oregon.

Thanks to efficient work of the German team, abilities of quick interaction between developers, and advanced simulation technologies that allowed to test the software and hardware solutions based on the new chip before it is released, the development time of the project was halved by two times, according to Intel.

Architectural, design and other details of the chip are projected to be revealed at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in February 2010.