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World’s First Microchip Developed with 1000 Independent Processors

1000 processor chip

A team of researchers at the University of California, Davis, have developed an energy-efficient “KiloCore” chip with a computation rate of 1.78 trillion instructions per second, containing 621 million transistors, which is slated to be the world’s first 1,000-processor chip.

This is far above Fujitsu K computer with 10 billion instructions per second. Instructions per second (IPS) is a measure of a computer‘s processor speed.The new KiloCore processor can run its own small program independent of the others, which is more flexible than so-called Single-Instruction-Multiple-Data approaches utilized by processors such as GPUs.

In KiloCore, the idea is to break an application up into many small pieces, each of which can run in parallel on different processors, enabling high throughput with lower energy use. Since each processor is independently clocked, it can shut itself down to save energy.

“To the best of our knowledge, it is the world’s first 1,000-processor chip and it is the highest clock-rate processor ever designed in a university,” said Bevan Baas, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who led the team that designed the chip architecture.

UC Davis graduate student Brent Bohnenstiehl, who developed the principal architecture said cores operate at an average maximum clock frequency of 1.78 GHz, and they transfer data directly to each other rather than using a pooled memory area that can become a bottleneck for data.

On an average, the 1,000 processors can execute 115 billion instructions per second while dissipating only 0.7 Watts, which can be powered by a single AA battery. The KiloCore chip executes instructions more than 100 times more efficiently than a modern laptop processor.

The team has completed a compiler and automatic program mapping tools for use in programming the chip. So far no such device exceeded about 300 processors and most of them were created for research purposes and few are sold commercially. The KiloCore chip was fabricated by IBM using their 32 nm CMOS technology.

The KiloCore, presented at the 2016 Symposium on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Honolulu on June 16.

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