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Manufacturers tip hot chips, interconnects

Posted: 01 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded systems? multicore processors? graphics processors? Hot Interconnects? Hot Chips?

Manufacturers and researchers previewed advanced multicore processors!and the on- and off-chip networks that those future microprocessors may use!at this year's Hot Chips and Hot Interconnects conferences.

Existing multicore CPUs such as IBM's Power6 and the latest graphics processors from Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia were presented and manufacturers provided an in-depth look into them. In a rare disclosure, startup Tilera Corp., founded by MIT professor Anant Agarwal, also introduced its multicore processor for embedded systems.

IBM delivered three papers on Power6, providing insight into how it has achieved power efficiency in the dual-core processor while still pushing the edge in clock speed. "This is notoriously difficult to achieve. Intel, for example, has largely stopped trying," said Rajeevan Amirtharajah, co-chair of the Hot Chips program committee and a professor at the University of California, Davis.

Among the papers that Intel has presented is one on power management techniques used in its upcoming 45nm Penryn processor. AMD tipped details on Griffin, its first CPU for notebook computers. Sun Microsystems described Victoria Falls, a cache coherent version of its Niagara2, aimed at multisocket servers. And IBM demonstrated its work on its next-generation mainframe processor.

Change with memory
T-RAM Semiconductor presented a paper on thyristor RAM. The device is seen as an embedded memory enabler for multicore processors because it can deliver DRAM-like densities at SRAM-like speeds.

"You can change the way you do things!like graphics rendering on die!because of the amount of inexpensive RAM you can put on a chip, and you wind up managing L3 and L2 chip caches like paged memory," said John Sell, Hot Chips chairman and senior engineer in Microsoft's Xbox group.

A handful of papers addressed embedded processors, including one from Texas Instruments on a DaVinci chip that can handle 30fps of 720p MPEG-4 video encoding at 400mW. A session dedicated to wireless included papers on the 60GHz radio work at startup SiBeam and an 802.11n chip from Broadcom.

New architecture
Future technologies such as on-chip networking!which is expected to be strategic in how microprocessors from AMD, IBM, Intel and others will compete!was the prime focus at the Hot Interconnects event.

"It's a new area of research. You can see a lot of techniques from supercomputers being used in multicore processors," said Fabrizio Petrini, co-chair of the conference and a researcher at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University described an on-chip router that boosts chip performance as much as 30 percent while keeping power consumption and latency low. A paper from the University of Maryland detailed simulations of on-chip networks based on mesh-of-trees architecture connecting memory and processor units using various arbitration schemes. Researchers at Columbia University detailed simulations of a hybrid electronic/photonic on-chip network.

But perhaps the most radical new idea is Ethane, a new approach to business networking developed by Stanford University researchers. Ethane aims to make networks simpler to manage and secure by authenticating and identifying every source of traffic on the net.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times




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