Many cores + many minds = many possibilities

I wanted to give an important update related to our research on future microprocessor architectures, particularly the “many-core” processors envisioned by our Tera-scale Computing Research Program. Last December, Intel Labs demonstrated the latest concept vehicle to emerge from this program, the 48-core Single-chip Cloud Computer. At the time, our CTO Justin Rattner also announced that we would make this experimental chip available to dozens of researchers worldwide, and even highlighted an early example collaboration via a demo presented by our friends at Microsoft Research.

Since then we have been working hard to make good on this commitment, soliciting and reviewing over 200 research proposals from academic and industry researchers around the globe, engineering a development platform suitable for external distribution, and even building a small ‘datacenter’ of a few dozen systems that can be accessed remotely – a cloud-based option for research on an architecture that itself was designed as a microcosm of a cloud datacenter.

To this end, today at the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Intel R&D site in Braunschweig, Germany (whose researchers co-developed the SCC), we officially unveiled the Many-core Applications Research Community, or MARC for short. Under the new MARC program, the academic and industry researchers whose proposals were accepted will be able to use the SCC as a platform for next-generation software research. MARC will provide them with a new tool to solve challenges in parallel programming and application development that, hopefully, will in turn lead to dramatic new computing experiences for people and business in the future.

As of today, MARC consists of 51 research projects from 38 institutions worldwide. Aside from Microsoft Research, a few examples are the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), the Technical University of Braunschweig, the University of Oxford, ETH Zurich, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Texas, Purdue University, and the University of California San Diego. There are too many to list here, and there are also several other institutions whose proposals were accepted but who are still in the process of joining MARC (including some from both the eastern and southern hemispheres on the globe).

Although MARC has been launched with an initial focus on the SCC concept vehicle, we hope that the community itself proves to be as valuable as the chip. As such, we will explore sharing other hardware and software research platforms over time. For today, we’re excited to be providing some great minds around the world with a new research tool and a means to share their thoughts, ideas, and results with each other.

This research is part of an overarching effort to continue scaling processor capabilities while keeping power consumption low. With a wealth of data quickly accumulating across the internet, from tiny tweets to high-res video feeds, from customer data warehouses to medical imaging repositories — we will need these powerful parallel processors to sort and analyse this data flood in real time. Concepts like the SCC represent a promise of more intelligent technology for the future, and devices that reach out into the cloud to access computing resources which can automate our routine tasks and find us the information we need, perhaps before we even ask for it.

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