Several years ago, Intel showed off its
Research Chip. That chip was highly experimental, with only
simple floating-point cores. Three years later, Intel has
something much more advanced.
Intel calls its new 48-core IA32
processor a "single-chip cloud computer" (SCC) because of
the way it resembles cloud datacenters, claiming that it "rethinks
many of the approaches used in today's designs". The SCC
consists of 24 "tiles", with two IA32 cores and a router
per tile creating a mesh network with 256GB/s of bandwidth.
tile (2 cores) can run at its own independent frequency, and
groupings of four tiles (8 cores) can each run at their own voltage.
The SCC can run all 48 cores at one time over a range of 25W to 125W
and is capable of selectively varying the voltage and frequency of
the mesh network as well. The SCC also features four integrated
memory controllers capable of addressing 64GB of DDR3 DRAM, and was
built on Intel's current 45nm high-K metal gate process.
datacenters currently run most of the internet, and can use tens of
thousands of computers connected by a physically cabled network. They
are capable of distributing large datasets and working them in
parallel. The SCC uses a similar approach, with all the parts
integrated on a single 567mm2 chip, which is approximately the size
of a postage stamp.
"With a chip like this, you could
imagine a cloud datacenter of the future which will be an order of
magnitude more energy efficient than what exists today, saving
significant resources on space and power costs," said Justin
Rattner, the head of Intel Labs and Intel's Chief Technology Officer.
"Over time, I expect these advanced concepts to find their way
into mainstream devices, just as advanced automotive technology such
as electronic engine control, air bags and anti-lock braking
eventually found their way into all cars".
hardware is impressive, it is the software
that will determine how well the SCC works. Creating software
with just a couple of threads is difficult enough, but applications
written for the SCC will have new capabilities like dynamically
managing which cores are used for a given task at a given time.
Related tasks can be executed on adjacent or nearby cores, and the
SCC is capable of passing results from one core directly to the next
in an assembly line. Voltage and clock speed can also be individually
controlled through software. Intel says that parallel programming
approaches used in cloud datacenter software have been applied when
designing the SCC.
Researchers from Intel, HP, Yahoo, and
several research institutions have been working on an open
cloud-computing research testbed project named Open Cirrus, which has
begun porting cloud applications to the SCC using Hadoop, a Java
software framework which supports data-intensive, distributed
Intel says that the long-term research goal is
to "add incredible scaling features to future computers that
spur entirely new software applications and human-machine
interfaces". The company plans to work with several dozen
industry and academic research partners around the world next
year by manufacturing and sharing 100 or more SCC chips for hands-on
research in developing new software applications and programming
models for future many-core processors.
partnering with Intel to explore new hardware and software
architectures supporting next-generation client plus cloud
applications," said Dan Reed, Microsoft's Corporate Vice
President of Extreme Computing.
"Our early research with
the single chip cloud computer prototype has already identified many
opportunities in intelligent resource management, system software
design, programming models and tools, and future application
The SCC was co-created by researchers working
at Intel Labs locations in Bangalore (India), Braunschweig (Germany)
and Hillsboro, Oregon research centers. More details on the chip's
architecture are scheduled to be published in a paper at the
International Solid State Circuits Conference in February.