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Dated: Dec. 31, 2010
Related CategoriesCPU - Processor
How many times have you been kept waiting while your desktop runs a program you need to use? Even though today's computers are much faster at processing information, many necessary but complicated programs still take a great deal of time to run on a desktop. Some programs with complicated algorithms are run on mini computers or main frames to achieve a reasonable speed to carry out this processing in a timely manner. Now, that may be changing. The more processes that can be done in a timely manner on a desktop, the more likely working from home or a small local office will become. The time lost to commuting may be much less in the years to come.
All computers have a Central Processing Unit (CPU) in which contains Core Processing Chips that allow the CPU to run your programs. In the beginning, a desktop computer had a chip contained transistors that let the CPU run one process at a time. As time went on, newer Core Processors were developed that split the chip into two, four or up to 16 cores on one Core Processor, allowing the CPU to run more than one process at a time. This greatly increased the processing time of the computer.
Dr. Wim Vanderbauwhede of the University of Glasgow along with some scientists at the University of Massachusetts Lowell have invented a new kind of processing chip, dubbed the Virtex V4 SX. The scientists have come up with a way to split one Core Processor into a 1000 parts, with each part running its own process at the same time. Further, the chip can be configured by the user of the computer who can determine how to break up the processor chip functions into individual cores.
The new Core uses a chip consisting of Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) which contains thousands of transistors. FPGA chips are not usually found in computers because they can be difficult to program and not always stable. However, the FPGA chips require much less energy to operate than the Core Processors in use today. This will allow the desktop to run cooler and use less energy. Dr. Wim Vanderbauwhede has found a programming sequence that increases the stability of the FPGA chips and is easy for the user to set up the circuit patterns that he needs.
The FPGA chips can be configured into separate circuit patterns and the scientists were able to split the FPGA chip into a 1000 individual circuits within this one chip. This program is available to the user, who can program circuit patterns into the Core as needed. Having a core that can perform 1000 functions at once on a desktop was something that was only dreamed about in the business world. Now, it has become a reality.
The scientists found a commonly used complex program and tried out their new chip. Using an algorithm for the processing of MPEG movie formats used on YouTube, the scientists were able to run this algorithm at speeds of 5 GB per second. This speed is 20 times faster than the speed of the fastest Core Processing Chip in use today.
These results have been able to be duplicated, and the scientists are planning to present their results at the yearly Conference on Applied Reconfigurable Computing in March of 2011. It will take several years for this new chip to come to market on a desktop that you can purchase, and most people won't need this speed for many functions. For those that do, however, the Virtex V4 SX will make desktops cable of processes now reserved for mini and mainframe computers in the near future. The cost savings to these businesses will be enormous.
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