Intel has an experimental 48-core chip that can be scaled up to 1,000 cores.
At the Supercomputing 2010 conference in New Orleans, Intel researcher Timothy Mattson told the audience that the chipmaker's 48-core Single Chip Cloud Computer (SCC) processor could be scaled up more than 20 times.
"This is an architecture that could, in principle, scale to 1,000 cores ... I can just keep adding, adding, adding cores," Mattson said on Wednesday, according to IDG News.
Mattson said the structure of the processor meant it was "arbitrarily scalable".
The 45nm SCC processor is the second processor to be developed by the company's TeraScale Research program. It consists of a six-by-four array of tiles, where each tile contains two IA cores. The cores are based on an early Pentium processor design from 1994.
The chip was announced in 2009 and had previously held the nickname Rock Creek.
This experimental architecture is being driven by research into how to connect large numbers of x86 cores together and how the overall architecture can interact and enable multi-core applications.
"To answer these questions, the absolute performance of the cores is not important so we opted for a well-known core that we could place on a tile with minimal effort," wrote the authors of an Intel academic paper that was published at the Supercomputing 2010 conference (PDF).
Pentium processors allow x86 instruction sets, so can be programmed for a wide range of uses unlike the previous chip from the program, the 80-core TeraScale processor. The TeraScale processor "featured a tiny, non-IA [Intel Architecture] instruction set and had no compiler, no external memory, no I/O, and no operating system. Consequently, programming this chip was a difficult process that only a few programmers accomplished", Intel's researchers said in the paper.
The processor has been distributed to an undisclosed number of researchers and developers, according to Intel, and does not feature in the chipmaker's product roadmap.
The 48-core SCC processor. Image credit: Intel