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As computing changes, Intel takes a fresh approach to chip design

Agam Shah | April 4, 2017
With Intel's new designs, high-performance x86 and ARM CPUs could co-exist on a single chip package.

The technology will come to PCs and servers but only in devices when needed. The throughput on EMIB could into the terabyte range, which most applications don't need, Kanter said.

EMIB will also support multiple throughput technologies, paving the way for Intel to put Infiniband and silicon photonics throughput technologies inside its chips. Intel has said it wants to enable cores to communicate using lights and lasers via silicon photonics.

The new approach also allows Intel to use cores made of exotic material inside its chips, Kanter said. Intel could connect its x86 chips to a separate core made of III-V material, which could ultimately replace silicon. 

Ultimately, the new approach to chip development comes down to economics, performance, and power budgets. Systems have thermal constraints on voltage regulation and cooling, and all of these packages need to be able to fit into the economics of chip-making.

The EMIB-like integration should work well for furthering AI hardware, assuming the thermals don't constrain the approach. The design allows low-cost changes to the hardware.

AI workloads are especially complicated, with large datasets and unpredictable data access patterns. A huge amount of chip connectedness would be just the ticket to compensate for that.

For chip designers, the EMIB-like design is also an invitation to design for Intel's x86 CPUs. Intel's conventional x86 CPUs have been a barrier to entry, and it takes a serious investment to even think about trying to compete. Intel is showing signs that external IP can be easily attached to its chips.

But attaching external IP hasn't always worked out in chip design, and it remains to be seen if Intel will actually be open to easy integration of external IP. 

 

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