Sun's 'macrochips' to extend Moore's Law

 

Forget the shrinking size of conventional electronic components -- bigger is better in a new computer chip design that could yield low-cost supercomputing.

Sun Microsystems is researching the development of high performance computers using microchip arrays. Based on the science of silicon photonics, the proposed technology involves low-cost microchips that are interconnected by on-chip laser networks to construct what is essentially a single, virtual “macrochip”.

The research project is expected to have applications in energy exploration, biotechnology and weather modeling and builds on research done under the High Productivity Computing Systems program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Already, Sun has received US$8.1 million of a total US$44.29 million grant from DARPA that was awarded to the project this week.

According to Moore’s Law, which is widely believed to govern the development of new technology, the number of transistors that can be cost-effectively built on a single computer chip doubles every two years.

Power and size constraints on computer chips were expected eventually to bring about the end of Moore’s Law. By allowing users to exploit massively parallel execution through the aggregation of multiple microchips, Sun’s new macrochip design could extend Moore’s Law in years to come.

“Optical communications could be a truly game-changing technology,” said Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer and executive vice president of research and development for Sun.

“[It could be] an elegant way to continue impressive performance gains while completely changing the economics of large-scale silicon production."

Sun's 'macrochips' to extend Moore's Law
 
 
 
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