Friday, February 8, 2008

The future of multi-core by CPU designers

The EE Times online has an interesting review of the International Solid State Circuits conference in San Jose (Feb 5). Senior staff at AMD, Renesas, IBM and Tilera shared their view on the design of the next multi-core systems. Here are some interesting extracts about the role of software following multi-core architecture developments:

Shekhar Borkar, director of Intel Corp.'s Microprocessor Technology Lab, said microprocessor cores will get increasingly simple, but software needs to evolve more quickly than in the past to catch up.

"A core will look like a NAND gate in the future. You won't want to mess with it," said Borkar. "As for software, the time to market has been long in the past, but we can't afford to let that be the case in the future," he added.

Dave Ditzel, former CPU architect at Sun and founder of Transmeta, agreed. A member of the audience, Ditzel told the panel he helped design Sun's first 64-bit CPU then waited nearly ten years before commercial 64-bit operating systems became available.

Ditzel borrowed a metaphor from Berkeley computer science professor Dave Patterson to describe the current situation.

"With multi-core it's like we are throwing this Hail Mary pass down the field and now we have to run down there as fast as we can to see if we can catch it," Ditzel said.

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