AMD sees future in accelerated computing

When it comes to the future of multicore processing, Advanced Micro Devices is looking far beyond adding more and more transistors to each new generation of chips.

With software development lagging behind the advances in multicore processing, Chuck Moore, an AMD Senior Fellow, said the company has begun exploring new ways that other pieces of hardware—or accelerators—can be combined with traditional CPUs to increase the performance of software applications, while allowing these applications to take full advantage of the new processing technology.

Moore presented his views on developing multicore technology at a panel discussion Feb. 6 at the 2008 International Solid State Circuits Conference here, which also included comments from other top engineers from such chip makers as Sun Microsystems and Intel.

When multicore technology first came into the market, operating systems and other third-party applications were able to take advantage of the extra computing power.

However, in an interview with eWEEK before his presentation, Moore said that as the number of cores in each chip grows, users now want their applications to run as fast as the new generation of multicore processors will allow.

The problem, which has been building for years, is that the software being written now does not take advantage of parallel processing. AMD is not the only chip maker to see this problem developing.

Intel, which continues to dominate the x86 chip market, is looking to create tools that will help software vendors and developers support application development for multicore systems.

For Moore , the problem with current software development is clear cut. Hardware, specifically PCs, that are built with multicore chip platforms, but that use the type of software still being written today, will show a decrease in performance.

While the number of transistors—the building blocks of microprocessors—continues to increase year after year, Moore said that does not translate into better performance.

"During the past 30 years, we have translated that the more transistors we place on the chip increases performance," said Moore, referring to Moore's Law, which is named after Intel founder Gordon Moore and states the number of transistors on a chip can double every 18 to 24 months.

"That has been the main driver of adding value into the chips mainly because we have been able to translate those transistors into increased performance. What is confused with Moore 's Law is that I'm going to double my performance every 18 months."

The solution, he said, is start developing smaller pieces of hardware or subsystems to help increase performance and allow the client, whether a desktop or a notebook, to take advantage of x86 processors that are multicore.

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