Team develops 1,000-core processor. Yes, really.

Posted by Kate Taylor

University of Glasgow scientists have created an ultra-fast 1,000-core processor which they say can run at 20 times the speed of current processors.

Dr Wim Vanderbauwhede and his team used a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and divided up the transistors within it into small groups, thereby creating more than 1,000 mini-circuits within the FPGA chip.

The researchers were then able to use the chip to process an algorithm  central to the MPEG movie format at a speed of five gigabytes per second.

"FPGAs are not used within standard computers because they are fairly difficult to program, but their processing power is huge while their energy consumption is very small because they are so much quicker – so they are also a greener option," said Dr Vanderbauwhede.

Traditional multi-core processors must share access to one memory source, which slows the system down. But the Glasgowe team was able to make the processor faster by giving each core a certain amount of dedicated memory.

"This is very early proof-of-concept work where we’re trying to demonstrate a convenient way to program FPGAs so that their potential to provide very fast processing power could be used much more widely in future computing and electronics," said Dr Vanderbauwhede.

"While many existing technologies currently make use of FPGAs, including plasma and LCD televisions and computer network routers, their use in standard desk-top computers is limited."

But with microchips combining traditional CPUs with FPGA chips now being announced by developers, including Intel and ARM, he says he expects this type of application to become more common.