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Multicore future is right now

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

Keywords:DSP? multicore design? processor? multiprocessor? parallel architecture?

Great hopes are being pinned on multiprocessor and parallel architecture as the answers for the continuing development of electronics and computing. Microprocessor designers have acknowledged that they can no longer rely on higher clock rates and increasing instruction-level parallelism (ILP) for performance increases. Absolute performance, increasing power and rising cost mean that running faster passed the point of diminishing returns long ago. Most of the industry would agree that multicore is the way forwardthat the principal challenges of multicore design have been successfully overcome, and the move to practical deployment can begin.

There are two main drivers behind the move to multicore technologies. The first is that it has become clear that "the real world is parallel." When computer scientists try to identify primitive functions which they can use as universal building blocks for more complex programs, they invariably find that these building blocks are inherently parallel processes. Moreover, the most rapidly expanding sectors of the electronics marketmedia processing and data compressionare exactly the areas where this parallelism is most pronounced.

Progress has been made in helping the designer to exploit this natural confluence of application requirements and parallel architectures. Mainstream processors from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are moving to dual or quad processors which are loosely coupled, allowing performance gains approaching 2X and 4X, without dramatically changing the programming model. But the need for greater performance calls for increasing the numbers of coresand that impacts the programming model. Multicore and parallel processing systems have traditionally been perceived as extremely hard to program, requiring special-purpose tools and expert knowledge, and this has been the clich?d reason why multicore processors have historically failed. However products such as multicore DSPs can be configured and programmed using standards-based tools that are intuitively understood by chip designers and programmers.

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