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Have Processor Counts Stalled?

By: Brian Bailey

Have chips reached a plateau for the number of processor cores they can effectively make use of? Possibly yes, until you change the programming model.

The amount of compute power going into automotive chips is staggering. “The trend is definitely moving toward domain-specific architectures, on-chip and off-chip accelerators, and embedded programmable logic,” says Sergio Marchese, technical marketing manager for OneSpin Solutions. “For many applications, throwing more standard processors at a problem is not the most effective solution. For example, if you look at the Tesla Full Self Driving chip, it has 12 Cortex-A72 processors that take a good portion of the chip area. However, the two neural network accelerators take almost twice as much area (see figure 1).”


Perhaps it is time for the survey question to be rewritten to better reflect the evolution of processing power in chips. Perhaps it should identify the number of independent instruction streams, or threads of control, but all such metrics would continue to be biased towards today’s control-driven paradigms.


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