Fast Company

1,000 Core CPU Achieved: Your Future Desktop Will Be a Supercomputer

CPUs

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Lowell laugh in the face of Intel's weedy handful of cores in its new CPU lineup: They've just squeezed over a thousand processor cores onto a single chip.

We've heard a lot about the potential for future desktop-sized supercomputers, but more than anything else this research proves that in the not-too-distant future it's likely to be a reality. Interestingly enough, there's also a green angle to this idea: FPGA chips can be more power efficient than their competitors, and if less computer time is needed to process complex tasks, then the overall power consumption of computers using the tech could be impressively low.

The advance was made by Dr. Wim Vanderbauwhede's team, who programmed an advanced chip called a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). FPGA systems have been around for a while, and their strength is that they can be programmed "in the field" to best suit whatever task they're needed for, unlike the hard-coded silicon ship designs you're probably imagining. The UM team's innovation was in working out how to program the FPGA to act as mini processor cores, since the tech is typically difficult to work with. This has traditionally been a barrier to their use in desktop PCs, although small FPGAs are often found inside devices like LCD TVs. 

Once the 1,000 individual CPU cores had been programmed onto the chip, the scientists took the necessary next step to prove how useful their innovation is: They ran an intensive algorithm through it to test how powerful it was, and they chose a tricky one too--at the core of motion MPEG video processing, used in many online video systems. The results speak for themselves. Using the kilo-core FPGA computer, the team was able to process 5 gigabytes per sec of movie files, which is about 20 times the rate that existing high-end computers can manage.

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9 Comments

  • Lr Jinzo

    Technology like this is on use already ,but people can't get their hands on it until its time for it.
    the thing is "marketing is being measured with time" nothing is released to market with no reason, you people gonna have to wait for your turn, at least till they get bored using this highest tech and move forward to something else.

  • Nota Realname

    wait... the first thing they wanted to test on a 1k core computer was... how well it can handle tons of video data? really? not... i dunno solve ever elusive last digit of 22 divided by 7 or maybe try and use it to use on one of the little tests like Langton's Ant simulated a few hundred thousand times simultaneously to see how long it take before locking in or if any of them ever miss the highway?... no... making something handle prettier graphics/video is definitely all computers are good for anymore... damned ADD culture... if it doesn't flash and blare out sound we can't be bothered to care anymore...

  • Godlennon

    22/7!=pi

    Also Langton's Ant is possible the most boring algorithm ever. If you've ever taken anything beyond an intro level java course you wouldn't suggest that.

    Let me put this in simple terms, you know how when you pirate a movie (because you're a super hacker), and you invite your (super hacker) friends over to watch it and every once in a while the video gets choppy and doesn't load and turns green in parts and your friends go "dude your computer is lame buy an alienware (because super hackers use alienware)". Yeah that wont happen with this processor because it can handle an extremely annoying video encoding format 20x as fast as anything you (or you super hacker friends) own.

    Now I feel bad for sounding mean on the internet :(

  • Diogenes

    Let me get this straight...instead of using it to process "flash and blare" (not just entertainment, but an algorithm for processing and compressing digital video, which has many other uses), you'd much rather it simulate a recurrent black and white pattern, or figure out what the last digit of an approximation of pi (which is worthless beyond a handful of digits, or 9th grade) is? Maybe it could be used to teach you how to capitalize your sentences or use ellipses properly, instead.

  • Nick P

    Also would be interested in what type of storage they used when doing the test. 5GB/s is fast, I wonder if it could process data much faster if the max transfer rate of their storage device/technology was better

  • Robert Garcia

    Is it too late to say "I want one very, very, much!"
    We've become really accustomed to multitasking on our computers, and really need for each one of those individual tasks to be done quicker. I'm very happy this is coming down the pike.

  • Eric

    Core size? What is your core size numb nuts? It is 1000 cores, that was the gist of the article. 16-bit is antiquated and would not provide the memory bandwidth to utilizing this config. They are probably 64-bit but it is not mentioned in the article.

  • Terry Stratoudakis

    Excellent article. FPGAs having been gaining momentum and publicity. Thank you for spreading awareness on FPGAs and their capabilities.