updated 02:35 pm EST, Wed December 2, 2009
Intel 48-core chip advances Terascale project
Intel today gave a look at its long-term future by showing the Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC). Actually a 48-core processor, the chip is an offspring of a very early 100-core project and shares its unique "network" approach that keeps each one of the full x86 cores communicating with each other at full speed, earning its cloud computing-inspired name. The new model, however, is extremely efficient: it uses unspecified new energy management to consume no more than 125W at peak load and as little as 25W, even when all 48 cores are active.
The primary obstacle to the processor is software optimization, Intel says. Most software is only designed to address a much smaller number of cores and needs to be reworked to operate with many tasks running in parallel. Java-based Hadoop has been used to port over cloud computing apps, but Intel fully expects CPUs on this magnitude to reach the home and will need a different software set. Apple's Grand Central Dispatch in Mac OS X Snow Leopard is partly meant to address this limit by simplifying the process of rerouting tasks to particular cores.
Among the advances believed possible by the SCC are "vision" apps that use the parallelism to recognize the environment with a camera and trigger interactions or overlays without needing input. A store could show an accurate 3D model of clothes on a customer's body in real-time, for example.
Some unnamed features of the SCC are due to show up in Intel's 2010 processor line, but the semiconductor firm hasn't said how soon production designs more closely resembling the prototype will be ready. The first mainstream six-core processors, including Core i9 and a companion Xeon line, won't ship until early next year. Full eight-core processors are due later that year.