I was looking at yet another multithreaded game presentation when a question came to mind:
Just how far are these multicores going to go?
After all, while it has certainly has become much more difficult to make a single CPU core run faster, doubling the number of CPU cores to compensate is hardly a permanent solution.
Will we see 8? Will we see 16? Will we see more than that?
So far, not a word from AMD and Intel.
Presumably, if a swarm of Cs are in our future, we would see octocores becoming mainstream in 2010/32nm process, and octoduocores (more on that in a moment) showing up in 2012-3/22nm process.
In the end, it’s really not going to matter what the geeks and gamers will want. The real problem with the swarm is, “How do you sell it to Grandma?”
Please, I’d like somebody tell me with a straight face that Grandma (and the majority of computer users like her) is going to need sixteen CPU cores for web and word use, not to mention those left who haven’t bought their first computer yet. That goes beyond ludicrous.
Now what Grandma and Company could well buy into is a computer-on-a-chip that replaces that ugly big box with something a lot smaller and cheaper. That alone will single-handedly destroy the PC industry as we’ve known it, but let’s skip the trifles.
There will be plenty of niches inbetween Grandma and Mr. More, More Cores.
How can the CPU possibly accomodate the extremes and everything in between?
There’s only one answer: CPUs must become modular. One size will no longer fit all, so future CPUs will have to become differing clusters of processors.
I don’t know exactly how it’s going to be done, but those who want different mixes may have a choice of them, or maybe there will be some sort of multiminisocket arrangement. We’ll probably see all types.
CPUs are going to start looking like Noah’s Ark with differing clusters of modular units getting on the boat. And, like Ark, they’ll probably come in pairs. The arguments about “real” x cores being all on one die will be viewed as a quaint notion.
What we’re NOT going to see is everybody getting essentially the same thing, and when that happens, when you can configure a CPU cluster much like you can a Dell, well, maybe that’s just what going to happen. Places like AMD and Intel (and probably others), will build the building blocks, and others will put them together.
We’ve believed and said for a long time that the PC world would eventually splinter into a lot of different devices for different uses. The last few years, the seams have been unravelling, but we’re still in the PC paradigm.
For the first time, we are beginning to see the outlines of how this is going to happen.
Yes, there will also be something that resembles a box, but five years from now, they will be far fewer and far more expensive than they are today.