With executives from Intel Corp. saying they're only five to eight years away from producing an 80-core chip, now may be the time for software developers to start working on applications that can take advantage of it. Intel is about a month away from unveiling the specs for a research prototype of an 80-core chip that they've developed. That's right: Not an 8-core; this is an 80-core chip. The microprocessor manufacturer has jumped way ahead of the expected progression from dual-core to quad-core to 8-core, etc., to delve into different ways to make something as complicated as an 80-core chip actually work.
Researchers have built the prototype to study how best to make that many cores communicate with each other. They're also studying new designs for cores and new architectural techniques, according to Manny Vara, a technology strategist with Intel's R&D labs. The chip is just for research purposes and lacks some necessary functionality at this point. To get that many cores on a single chip, while keeping the chip at nearly the same size, Intel's researchers made the cores themselves less complex. "If you look at it, by the time you put dozens of cores on a chip, they won't be the same kind that you can put three or four on a chip today," says Vara. "The new ones will be much simpler. You break the core's tasks into pieces and each task can be assigned to a core. Even if the cores are simpler and slower, you have a lot more of them, so you have more performance."