Someone needs to call Intel and remind them that they make money by selling more chips, not fewer; the company’s research arm, Intel Labs, has been experimenting with a so-called “single-chip cloud computer“, which utilizes a 48-core single-die chip complete with a high-speed on-chip network for inter-core communication. They reckon the super-compact chip could one day deliver high-performance crunching in ultraportable form-factors.
Video demo after the cut
Part of that is because of the chip’s frugal power requirements: despite the 48 cores, it draws as little as 25W or – at full load – 125W, around the same as a current-gen Intel CPU. Software can control each of the cores individually, automatically scaling them back during low-use periods and then ramping them back up as required. The cloud-computing comparison refers to the idea of having multiple computers interlinked and taking advantage of combined processing ability; in the Intel chip’s case, however, it’s even more efficient since the distance between the cores is much smaller and accompanying software can shuttle data between cores directly rather than sending it out to off-chip system memory and then back in.
Intel are planning to make around 100 of the 45nm chips available to researchers, in the hope that they’ll prompt “new software applications and programming models”; Intel, Yahoo! and HP engineers have already been porting cloud computing apps to the chip for demonstration purposes. No word on when we might see a commercial version, however.