Tilera on Monday introduced a series of general purpose processors ranging from 16 to 100 cores for use in servers. The processors would replace multiple processors and lower system costs.
While it is too soon to tell whether Tilera's TILE-Gx family will one day challenge Xeon and Opteron server chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, respectively, the announcement points to the ongoing industry trend of adding cores to boost performance.
Tilera, however, has leapt ahead of the x86 architectures of the two larger companies. Intel plans to begin production of an eight-core Xeon chip, codenamed Nehalem-EX, by the end of the year, with systems using the technology expected early in 2010. AMD, which has a six-core processor, plans to release a 12-core chip in the first half of next year.
Intel and AMD's, x86 architecture, however, is the industry standard in commodity servers found in most data centers today. It is unlikely that enterprises would immediately find it worth the cost to port business applications to a new architecture. Tilera, however, is hoping to make inroads in data centers over time, targeting specific applications.
Tilera plans to release its 100-core processor, the TILE-Gx100, in the first half of 2011. The chip will be targeted at systems performing Internet-related functions, such as Web indexing and search. The TILE-Gx family will include 16-, 36- and 64-core processors. Samples of the TILE-Gx36 chip are expected to start shipping to system builders in the fourth quarter of 2010, rolling out the other processors in the same timeframe as the TILE-Gx100.
Tilera's new products are manufactured by TSMC using a 40-nanometer manufacturing process. The processors have a clock speed of up to 1.5 GHz and power consumption ranging from 10 to 55 watts, which is the maximum power use of the 100-core product.
Tilera has developed what it calls an iMesh architecture capable of scaling to hundreds of RISC-based cores on a single chip that includes integrated memory controllers and a rich set of I/O. The company offers a multicore development environment for programming in C/C++ for the 64-bit platform. How difficult it will be to port Windows and Linux, the two dominant server operating systems, and business applications to TILE-Gx chips remains to be seen.
Development tools are still evolving for building software that can take full advantage of the parallel processing power of multicore chips. While chip makers are moving quickly to best each other in the number of cores on a chip, software makers are behind in producing products that leverage the full performance capabilities of the processors.
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