Processors that change configuration depending on workload to greatly increase central-processing unit (CPU) performance and energy efficiency are the focus of a research project at Intel Labs, the University of Texas, Carnegie Mellon, and other universities.
The MorphCore CPU has two configurations, one for high-performance single-threaded workloads and another for higher-throughput multi-threaded workloads, says Intel's Chris Wilkerson. Simulations of the new processor show a 10-percent performance gain and a 22-percent energy efficiency increase over traditional CPUs.
The transformable CPU modifies the design of a high-performance CPU to enable shutdown or reallocation of the buffers that allow instructions to be reprioritized, Wilkerson says. The physical register file is divided into equal partitions, each housing the architectural state of one executing thread to ease renaming, which assigns buffer space for fetched instructions. In addition, the throughput mode lowers power consumption by switching off the load buffer and a large part of the store buffer.
With these advances, "processors in the next 5-10 years may offer the best of both worlds: high performance to minimize delay and deliver the best user experience, as well as throughput mode to maximize efficiency when single-thread performance is less important," Wilkerson says.
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