Chip Architecture Goes Mesh

Loraine Lawson

The hot item this week at the Hot Chips symposium at Stanford, in Palo Alto?


Multi-processor chips, of course.


Intel debuted an 80-core prototype that uses a mesh architecture, reports. The new designs eliminate the bus used by current chips. Each core is connected via wire to the others and each has a router to facilitate communications.


Essentially it's the same design as the Internet, but small, according to this article from InformationWeek, which focuses on Tilera, a company that's an MIT spin-off. Tilera unveiled its TILE64 - a chip with a similar design to the Intel chip, except with 64 separate processors - this week at Hot Chips.


Since each processor is connected to the others, the chip avoids speed bottlenecks and operates at a much lower power than existing chips, according to Technology Review.


While every processor on the market is multicore, the current architecture doesn't scale, according to Tilera's CTO and founder, Anant Agarwal - a problem the new design helps address. Agarwal predicts that by 2014, the industry will have 1,000-core architectures.


The article notes that, in the short term, this new chip design will expand the capacity of videoconferencing systems and analyzing network traffic in routers. Long term, it could mean programmers will have to modify how they code to take advantage of the new processing power.


So far, the developers haven't caught up with multicore chips, largely because it requires parallel programming - and that ain't easy, according to For a look at why, check out Thinking Parallel blogger Michael Suess's post on Top Five Reasons Why I Hate Parallel Programming (Sometimes).


This week, Intel plans to release eight papers on programming for multicore architectures, including two examining how parallel programming can be simplified.

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