This year's Hot Chips conference is all about chips that can rake, power efficiency be damned. That's because virtual reality, machine learning, and self-driving cars demand heaps of processing power, not low power consumption. Here are some the fastest chips being detailed at the conference, starting Sunday in Cupertino, California.
Expectations are sky high for AMD's Zen CPU, which will launch in high-end desktops early next year. AMD has been boasting about massive performance improvements, but only time will tell if those numbers hold up. Zen scales from eight cores for desktops to 32 cores for servers. No doubt, AMD loyalists will lap up Zen, but it's unclear if the chip is good enough for the Intel faithful to switch camps.
One chip bound to get a lot of love is Power9, a successor to chips used in the Watson supercomputer that beat humans in the game of Jeopardy back in 2011. It's a speed demon, equipped with cutting edge technologies like NVLink for Nvidia GPUs and PCI-Express 4.0. Power9 is being used by Google and Rackspace in a server called Zaius. The chip will be used in a 200-petaflop supercomputer called Summit, slated to be deployed by 2018.
The 1000-core KiloCore has an unbelievable number of CPU cores, so it needs to be power efficient, or electric bills could go through the roof. The chip has a network of independent cores that can shut on or off, depending on the processing power needed. Developed by researchers at the University of California at Davis, the KiloCore may be relegated to a lab, like many research chips under development today. But it's one dreamy chip for geeks.
Nvidia's Tegra chips started off powering mobile phones, but they are now used in cars, servers, robots, and drones. The next Tegra chip being detailed at Hot Chips is already in Nvidia's Drive PX 2, which the company described as a "supercomputer for cars." Sitting in the trunk of a car, Drive PX 2 helps self-driving cars with object recognition, navigation, and other functions. This megachip has a powerful graphics processor, and we can't wait to hear more about it.
Fujitsu dropped a bombshell in June by tossing out its trusty SPARC processors and turning to ARM CPUs for Japan's Post-K supercomputer, which could be one of the fastest in the world when released in 2020. ARM rules mobile devices but has developed a new supercomputing CPU design, which it will highlight at Hot Chips. That bodes well for Softbank, which is shelling out US$32 billion to buy ARM.