CSC 456 Spring 2012/ch1 BC

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Processor Improvement

From page 2 of Solihin, the change in transistor counts from 1971-2006 is mentioned to have increased from 2,300 to 167 million, a 72,608x increase. From 2006-2012 the increase in the number of transistors on a chip has grown from 167 million to 2.6 billion, a 15x increase.[1]

Also from page 2, it is mentioned that the clock frequency of processors grew from 750 KHz to 2.4 GHz between 1971-2006, a 3,200x increase. From 2006-2012 the clock frequency has increased from 2.4ghz to 5.2, a 2.2x increase.[2]

The following facts have been updated from the original list on page 4 of Solihin:


The following table shows the improvement in Intel processors since 1971. The bold items are Intel processors that have come out since the book was written. Original table can be found on page 4 of the book.

Evolution of Intel Processors[7]
From Procs Specifications New Features
1971 4004 740KHz, 2300 transistors, 10 micrometers, 640B addressable memory, 4KB program memory
1978 8086 16-bit, 5-10MHz, 29000 transistors at 3 micrometers, 1MB addressable memory
1982 80286 8-12.5MHz Virtual memory and protection mode
1985 386 32-bit, 16-33MHz, 275K transistors, 4GB addressable memory Pipelining
1989 486 25-100MHz, 1.5M transistors FPU integration
1993 Pentium 60-200MHz On-chip L1 caches and SMP suport
1995 Pentium Pro 16KB L1 caches, 5.5M transistors OOO execution
1997 Pentium MMX 233-450MHz, 32KB L1 cache, 4.5M transistors Dynamic branch prediction, MMX instruction sets
1999 Pentium III 450-1400MHz, 256KB L2 cache on chip, 28M transistors SSE instruction sets
2000 Pentium IV 1.4-3GHz, 55M transistors Hyperpipelining and SMT
2006 Xeon 64-bit, 2GHz, 167M transistors, 4MB L2 cache on chip Dual-core and virtualization support
2008 Intel Core i7 64-bit, 3.2GHz, 730M transistors, 4 core
2010 Intel Xeon "Nehalem-EX" 64-bit, 2.66GHz, 2300M transistors, 8 core
2011 Intel Xeon E7 64-bit, 2.67GHz, 2600M transistors, 10 core First Intel chip with 10 processors

The following table is a revised version of the one on page 8 of Solihin listing some examples of current high end multicore processors.

Examples of Current Multicore Processors[8][3]
Name # Cores Clock Freq Clock Type Caches Chip Power
IBM z196 4 cores 5.3GHz OOO Superscalar 128KB L1, 1.5MB L2, 24MB L3, 192MB L4 1800W
Intel Xeon E 10 cores 2.67GHz SIMD 64KB L1, 256KB L2, 30MB L3 130W

Top Trends

Super Computers

The top rated super computer for November 2011 is Japan's "K Computer", rated by[9] The K Computer operates at 10.51 petaflop/s with 705,024 cores and is the first to break the 10 petaflop/s barrier. Just one year earlier the highest rated supercomputer was China's Tianhe-1A at 2.57 petaflop/s, 1/4 as fast as the K Computer.

This is the second top500 list in a row that the K Computer stayed in first place. In fact, none of the top 10 changed, which is mentioned here by TOP500 editor Erich Strohmaier, "This is the first time since we began publishing the list back in 1993 that the top 10 systems showed no turnover".[9] This shows that the improvement in potential processing power has started to slow down. This observation combined with the reduction in transistor count and clock frequency growth described earlier would suggest that we are approaching the "wall" of processing capabilities.

Cluster Computing

Since June 2006, the trending supercomputer architecture has gone towards cluster computing. Cluster architecture usage has gone from 72% in 2006 to 82% in 2011, while Constellation has gone from 7.6% to 0%.[10]


  3. 3.0 3.1
  9. 9.0 9.1
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