Intel debuted and demonstrated its Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC) processor Wednesday. The processor has 48 cores--24 dual-core "tiles"--connected with a high-speed mesh network. Intel wants the experimental chip, at least 100 of which it'll distribute to researchers in 2010, to lead to new attempts to tackle multicore system and software design. Ultimately, Intel believes its aggressive multicore approach will be the way computers get enough power for tasks such as vision and speech comparable to what humans have.
Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner showed off the SCC chip. Here he holds a silicon wafer of the processors at a press event in San Francisco. The processor consumes between 25 and 125 watts of power--the numbers from Rattner's slide presentation projected on the wafer.
Intel had two SCC prototype computers on display. Because the SCC chips use ordinary x86 processor cores, regular software such as Windows and Linux can run on them. The SCC systems can accommodate up to 64GB of memory, but this machine had 16GB.
Intel's SCC chip's x86 cores each are comparable in power to the lower-end Atom line used in Netbooks today. Intel expects programmers eventually will have to reckon with many more cores. That's an issue that the computing industry is struggling to adjust to because most PC software is geared to perform a single sequence of instructions, not many things in parallel.
Each node on the SCC chip includes two x86 cores with its own memory cache. Linking them to the outside world is router circuitry that handles networking on the chip. The network lets processors exchange information and communicate with any of four DDR3 memory banks.