New way to marry processors, memory gains steam

Samsung, Texas A&M University, a leading South Korean research institute and others have formed EMC-3D, an organization dedicated to hammering out standards for through-silicon vias, or TSVs.

TSVs are electrical data pathways connecting a processor to memory. With TSVs, data can get to the processor far more rapidly than through conventional buses, and for the past several years getting data to the processor from memory has been one of the main barriers to higher performance. AMD's jump in performance with the Opteron was largely accomplished by speeding up the memory-to-processor path.

Intel showed off an 80-core chip with memory attached with TSVs at its recent developer forum. Intel CTO Justin Rattner said that it was one of the big announcements at the show. Doing 80 cores is tough, but TSVs was a bigger deal, he said.

The existence of EMC-3D means that other companies see a future in the idea as well. The consortium could also help establish standards in packaging and memory design. Of course, it also could mean that Intel, although it might be first to market with a TSV chip, may not be alone for too long.

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