Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trends in CPU design

For the past few years, in the processor field, the trend has been slowly shifting from a single high Hz CPU to multicore processors. Intel has Xeon dual core and has managed to paste two such chips to bring out what it calls quad core, AMD still has only Opteron dual-core CPUs and is likely to release native quad-core chip next year. There are other smaller players like Azul claiming to have much more cores in a CPU but the real players are only four of them, the remaining two being IBM and Sun Microsystems. IBM along with partners worked on designing Cell chip but it is a special-purpose processor, not for general computing. Sun surprised everyone last year with its eight-core Niagara processor also known as UltraSparc T1. It not only had eight cores in a single chip, but has the capability to run 4 simultaneous hardware threads in each of them giving an impression to the OS of running on a 32 CPU machine.
Sun is going to follow it with Niagara 2 which will have twice the number of threads in each core, thus a virtual 64 threads in eight cores! While Niagara has one floating point unit (FPU) shared by all 8 cores thus slowing down the floating point performance, Niagara 2 will have an FPU for each core. It'll also run with a higher clock rate. So it will be a complete server-on-a-chip when it comes out next year. Seems to be the most interesting processor at present.

More about Niagara 1 at :

about Niagara 2 :
Official Sun doc

Cell processor info at:
Official IBM link

1 comment:

Andrew S said...

Bring on the virtualisation! With the enourmous thread handling capacities of these multi-core processors, virtualisation is going to be the biggest bonanza.