Technology: February 2007 Archives

The talk of dishonesty in PR reminded me of a bit of news from Intel earlier in February and how you really need to fact-check every little detail in the information provided by a company. At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), Intel described how its research team developed a chip with 80 floating-point processors on it.

It has good headline performance, as long as you like your floating-point problems to be small, about 3Kbyte small. And it has some neat design techniques behind it, as described in the paper from the digest helpfully uploaded by PC Perspective. I would point people to the IEEE Member Digital Library but, seeing as the institution takes its own sweet time to put the proceedings online, this is the only place you can see this paper (as far as I can tell) right now.

However, what amused me was the list of 'innovations' in the device put together by the PR team at Intel.

"Intel’s Teraflops Research Chip implements several innovations for multi-core architectures:

Rapid design - The tiled-design approach allows designers to use smaller cores that can easily be repeated across the chip. A single-core chip of this size (100 million transistors) would take roughly twice as long and twice as many people to design.

Network on a chip - In addition to the compute element, each core contains a 5-port messaging passing router. These are connected in a 2D mesh network that implement message-passing. This mesh interconnect scheme could prove much more scalable than today’s multi-core chip interconnects, allowing for better communications between the cores and delivering more processor performance.

Fine-grain power management - The individual compute engines and data routers in each core can be activated or put to sleep based on the performance required by the application a person is running. In addition, new circuit techniques give the chip world-class power efficiency—1 teraflops requires only 62W, comparable to desktop processors sold today.

And other innovations - Such as sleep transistors, mesochronous clocking, and clock gating."

That's all well and good but most of these aren't actually Intel innovations. Some of them aren't even all that new. However, the reader could be expected to assume that these techniques were developed by the company based on that wording. This guy seemed to think so: as he writes "Intel calls it mesochronous clocking". Not quite. That name came from somewhere else.