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Kalray Rethinks Parallel Processing

September 26, 2017

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Even in the semiconductor industry, sometimes less is more. While other processor vendors keep striving for higher core counts, Kalray is trying to improve efficiency by moving in the opposite direction with its newest embedded designs. But then, the French company’s first product was a massively parallel 256-core chip, so there’s room to cut back.

Kalray’s third-generation processor, the MPPA3 Coolidge, will debut as two models that have “only” 80 or 160 cores. Their proprietary 64-bit CPUs will run at higher clock speeds than those in Kalray’s existing processors, however. The 80-core chip is targeting 1.2GHz; to better manage power, the 160-core chip slows to 900MHz. Even that speed is faster than the fastest Kalray processors today, which operate at 600MHz.

Thanks to these and other improvements—including wider data paths, faster FPUs, and new coprocessors for computer vision and machine learning—Kalray says Coolidge will deliver up to 4.6x more floating-point throughput and 9.2x more fixed-point throughput. The new products are scheduled to sample in 3Q18, and we expect production will start in mid-2019.

Kalray designs its massively parallel processors for data centers (especially smart storage systems and smart network interfaces), critical embedded systems (including avionics and military systems), and autonomous vehicles. Key selling points are predictable response times and strong partitioning, which enable multiple time-critical applications to run in parallel.

Coolidge has a fresh opportunity if it can meet its performance goals and production schedule. It’s more than a year away, though, and competitors are moving quickly as well, so execution is vital.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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