Sunday, February 11, 2007

Intel tests 80 core processor

The reports of Intel's 80 core processing are interesting on several levels. First it marks the first step towards mainstream use of massively parallel processors. 80 cores is nowhere near the 1000 plus processor machines I was using in the late 80s but these are running on the same chip and are running at 3GHz rather than 20MHz.

The recent cap in processor speeds is not the only reason that improvements in machine speed have tailed off of late. The other reason is lack of parallelism to exploit. It is pretty easy to run a 6502 processor core at 3GHz but it will still run several orders of magnitude slower than a 64 bit Pentium. Increasing numbers of gates has been responsible for much more of the increase in machine speed over the years than improvements in clock speed.

Most of the tricks being used to keep the machine running fast over the past five years have been reaching a natural limit. There is only so much you can do with more cache, more pipelining etc.

The other significant trend is that much more of the code in modern machines is now threaded than ten years ago. There was not much point in having 80 cores ten years ago. Today there are many people who know how to use them.

Even so we are still waiting to see a decent parallel spreadsheet or come to that a decent spreadsheet or database at all. Regurgitated versions of mediocre 70s offerings.

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