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NEC shows off quadcore ARM processor

It’s been suggested to me more than once that ARM should or will be more prevalent in HPC in the future than it is today. This seems especially relevant as customers look to balance power consumption with numerical results. While there is no doubt a long way to go before any of us is running a 1 million core ARM machine (ARM is a 32-bit architecture for starters), NEC is making news with its announcement that it will be showing off a quadcore ARM processor

NEC logoNEC Electronics Corp. looks set to grab a share of the lead in terms of high performance ARM processors at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week with a quad-core Cortex-A9 design. The technology is due to showcased on the booth of ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England), the originator of the Cortex-A9 multiprocessing core.

While ARM has been mostly limited to the embedded and mobile space to date, it is probably a technology you should scotch tape onto your consciousness and see what happens. An interesting approach? Use the ARM asynchronous designs. These guys cut power consumption by waiting for something to do while using almost no power.

NEC has been an eager proponent of multiprocessing with the ARM architecture. NEC made the first implementation of multicored ARM processor back in 2005. It was a test chip based on the ARMv6 instruction set architecture, comprising four ARM11 processors running with cache coherence and made by NEC using a generic 130-nm manufacturing process.

My friend Joe, in reference to the future prospects of ClearSpeed and GPUs, once said to me volume wins. He’s said it since and been right then, too. According to the Wikipedia, in 2007 98% of the more than one billion mobile phones sold each year used an ARM processor. That’s a lot of volume.

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