Experimental Intel Chip Achieves a Teraflop

Intel said on Sunday that is has developed an experimental CPU chip capable of more than 1 trillion floating point operations per second. The annoucement was reported at HeraldNet.

The processor has 80 cores and draws just 62 watts of power.

Previously, chip designers used high clock rates to achieve CPU speed, but that simply resulted in excessive heat. The movement to multi-cores with modest clock rates is a better way to utilize the silicon on a chip.

"What weire trying to do is take microprocessor performance to the next level - thatis whatis motivating us," said Justin Rattner, Intelis chief technology officer.

The first use of such a chip would be in corporate data centers and supercomputers. Currently, it is a difficult proposition for typical developers to write software that can exploit the power of 80 cores. Intel excecutives acknowledged that that particular product might not see commercial use: "Building the chip would be a manufacturing marvel, and itis unclear whether thereis an operating system intelligent enough to control it."

Currently the average desktop computer or server averages about 10 gigaflops. A modest departmental cluster with, say, 128 Xserves in ten racks can easiily achieve a teraflop, but the air conditioning, power and cluster software management resources are significant.

The Intel announcement suggests that the day will come fairly soon when high end desktops could have a hundred cores and easily achieve a teraflop. And require no more power than a Mac mini today.