Intel’s 48-Core Single-Chip Cloud Computer

By | December 3, 2009

Intel announced yesterday a new 48-core single chip computer that is low power and promises huge speed increases for applications that can take full advantage of parallel computing. Applications in Artificial Intelligence including machine learning, robotics and computer vision stand to greatly benefit from such silicon.

If you remember, a bit less than 3 years ago, I wrote about Intel’s Teraflop Research Chip that was promising a 80-core design within 5 years. I wrote then,

Intel executives speculated that the new chip will be available for desktop and laptop PC use in 5 years although the most conservative ones predict that what is most likely to be available in this time frame is a smaller chip with maybe 20 to 40 cores.

Intel practically delivered on that promise yesterday when they announced their new 48-core chip. The new architecture brings cloud computing to a single chip which means that to a large degree the new microprocessor is going to be aimed at server applications. However, we all know that eventually such a technology will find its way into our desktop and laptop computers. In fact, in the Press Release, Intel notes how the new chip could be used to develop new and exciting consumer-based applications,

For example, future laptops with processing capability of this magnitude could have “vision” in the same way a human can see objects and motion as it happens and with high accuracy.

Imagine, for example, someday interacting with a computer for a virtual dance lesson or on-line shopping that uses a future laptop’s 3-D camera and display to show you a “mirror” of yourself wearing the clothes you are interested in. Twirl and turn and watch how the fabric drapes and how the color complements your skin tone.

These are fascinating news. So far, NVIDIA was leading the way with their GPU-based parallel processing solutions (see for example the Tesla desktop supercomputer) but now Intel is back in the game. The competition between these two companies will drive innovation and so I expect to see chips with even more cores in the not so distant future.

Along with the Press Release, Intel also released the below video outlining the features in their new 48-core single-chip cloud computer.