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Intel sticks 48 cores on a chip

Killing off the server stacks
Thu Dec 03 2009, 10:58

INTEL HAS A CUNNING PLAN to kill off server stacks by putting shedloads of cores on a chip that it calls the "Single Chip Cloud" (SCC).

Chipzilla has attempted this before but its prototype then, the 80-core "Polaris" processor, tended to use too much power and didn't like other x86 computer code. Intel's SCC chip has half the number of cores of its earlier Polaris and contains 1.3 billion transistors.

It can run standard x86 software and consists of what are basically low powered cores that gain power by collectively working together.

It uses a third of the power of the Polaris and is accelerated with built-in hardware instructions for minimum communication delays.

Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner believes that one day we will drive to work in our jet car and replace a rack of gear with just one SCC server.

Professor Timothy Roscoe of ETH Zurich said he was very excited about the chip because it was a doddle to design OS architectures for future multicore and manycore systems using it. "The chip's memory system and message passing support are a great fit for us, and it's an ideal vehicle for us to test and validate our ideas," he said.

Apparently the SCC is an "exciting platform for data centre research" because the combination of fine-grained voltage and frequency control, together with the ability to shut off entire zones of the processor, means that designers can accurately investigate the balance between computation, memory, and I/O, he indicated.

David Andersen, assistant professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, said that the chip's massive parallelism gives boffins the ability to "investigate the degree of parallelism that will be needed from applications five years down the line to make the best use of emerging many-core platforms."

Dan Reed, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Extreme Computing, said the Vole is partnering with Intel to explore new hardware and software architectures supporting next-generation client plus cloud applications.

He said the Vole's early research with the SCC processor prototype has already identified many opportunities in intelligent resource management, system software design, programming models and tools, and future software ideas. µ


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