Future computer chips likely to have hundreds or even thousands of cores

Most computer chips today have anywhere from four to 10 separate cores, or processing units, which can work in parallel, increasing the chips’ efficiency. But the chips of the future are likely to have hundreds or even thousands of cores. For chip designers, predicting how these massively multicore chips will behave is no easy task. Software simulations work up to a point, but more accurate simulations typically require hardware models — programmable chips that can be reconfigured to mimic the behavior of multicore chips.

At the IEEE International Symposium on Performance Analysis of Systems and Software earlier this month, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) presented a new method for improving the efficiency of hardware simulations of multicore chips. Unlike competing methods, it guarantees that the simulator won’t go into “deadlock” — a state in which cores get stuck waiting for each other to relinquish system resources, such as memory. The method should also make it easier for designers to develop simulations and for outside observers to understand what those simulations are intended to do.

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