Bangalore: There’s India inside Intel (rather, there’s Bangalore inside Intel). The world’s largest computer chip maker has developed the prototype of its latest supercomputer-like microprocessor and key memory and power control modules at its offices in this city.
Vittal Kini, the head of Intel’s India research labs who spearheaded the development along with a team of engineers, said the local centre developed a prototype based on a design blueprint put together by Intel engineers at the company’s Oregon, California office.
“Engineers at the India development centre focused on developing actual circuit design and control logic for power and memory,” he said. “There was no way the chip could have worked without a joint collaboration between the two labs.”
Intel unveiled the prototype on Monday in San Francisco. The new chip, capable of executing a trillion complex calculations a second (called teraflop in chip industry lingo), puts together 80 ‘cores’, or individual processors, on a single platform that will deliver 20 times more processing power than the current crop of dual and quad-core processors. It will form the basis for chips that could be used in servers, even desktop computers, by 2012.
The new processor, when ready, could reduce the number of servers and processors required to run large networks, and cope with data-heavy applications such as multimedia messaging, video search, even online software services.
The first time Intel experimented with a teraflop chip was in 1996 when it hooked up nearly 10,000 Pentium processors in a 2,000sq.ft space, burning over 500kw of electricity. The latest chip achieves this on just 62 watts, less than what many single-core processors use today.
The thrifty use of power by the processor could reduce power costs at server-heavy data centres by more than half. “Using teraflop microprocessors with higher performance means you can have fewer processors in the data centres, which means fewer servers, which means lower costs for energy, physical space and administrators,” Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst at UK-based iSuppli Research, a firm that tracks the global semiconductor industry, told Mint over the phone.
The prototype will have to overcome several challenges before it becomes a reality by 2012. Using this processing power optimally would involve feeding the chip with enough data.
“When you put so many microprocessors on one single chip, you will have to provide high aggregate bandwidth (in terabytes) and adequate data, otherwise the system will remain idle,” Kini said. Intel’s team in India is addressing the problem by integrating a memory module on to the chip.
This is not the first time a chip has come out of an Indian lab. Last year, Texas Instruments unveiled ‘LoCosto’, a chip designed for low-cost phones selling between $30 (Rs1,320) and $50 in emerging markets such as India. It was partly developed at TI’s centre here.
In November 2006, Freescale Semiconductor said its India design centre had developed its new Wimax chip.