updated 05:00 pm EST, Mon February 12, 2007
Intel 80-Core CPU
Intel began the ISSC conference today by revealing the breakthrough Teraflops Research Chip. The design achieves its namesake teraflop of performance at a modest 3.16GHz by merging 80 small cores into a single processor that consumes only 62W of power, equalling the power draw of even modest desktop CPUs today. This same performance required 10,000 Pentium Pros and a gigawatt of combined CPU and cooling power a decade ago, the chipmaker says.
The TRC works by overcoming the bandwidth limits inherent to a many-core design. Where a traditional design would lose any of its advantages beyond 16 cores due to bandwidth limits, each core in the Intel chip has its own router that manages the sheer volume of traffic passing by. Such an implementation even has the side benefit of improved power management, letting the TRC selectively shut down entire cores when they grow idle.
Production of the chip in its current form is very unlikely, as it exists mainly as a working prototype that showcases the technology using only floating-point math. What it should lead to, Intel promises, are production CPUs within the next five to ten years that contain as many as 8 to 16 more general purpose x86 cores that will work in future Linux, Mac, and Windows PCs. Current technologies would only see quad-core chips pervading the mainstream by the end of this decade.