New ultra fast processor previewed

Scientists have created an ultra-fast 1,000 core computer processor which could speed up machines and make them greener. Originally, computers were developed with only one core processor, the part of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) which reads and executes instructions.

Nowadays processors with two, four or even 16 cores are commonplace. However, Dr Wim Vanderbauwhede, of the University of Glasgow, and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Lowell have now created a processor which effectively contains more than a thousand cores on a single chip.

To do this, the scientists used a chip called a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) which like all microchips contains millions of transistors – the tiny on-off switches which are the foundation of any electronic circuit.

FPGAs can be configured into specific circuits by the user, rather than their function being set at a factory, which enabled Dr Vanderbauwhede to divide up the transistors within the chip into small groups and ask each to perform a different task.

By creating more than 1,000 mini-circuits within the FPGA chip, the researchers effectively turned the chip into a 1,000-core processor – each core working on its own instructions.

Dr Vanderbauwhede said: “FPGAs are not used within standard computers because they are fairly difficult to program but their processing power is huge while their energy consumption is very small because they are so much quicker – so they are also a greener option.”

The researchers then used the chip to process an algorithm which is central to the MPEG movie format – used in YouTube videos – at a speed of five gigabytes per second, around 20 times faster than current top-end desktop computers.

While most computers sold now contain more than one processing core, which allows them to carry out different processes simultaneously, traditional multi-core processors must share access to one memory source, which slows the system down. The research scientists were able to make the processor faster by giving each core a certain amount of dedicated memory.

Dr Vanderbauwhede hopes to present his research at the International Symposium on Applied Reconfigurable Computing in March next year.

Source: MSFN