Micron Technology, best known for its memory chips, has announced a processor it claims is a new computing architecture, aimed at applications with large unstructured sets of data, or those that require real-time results such as cyber security analysis.
Unveiled at the Supercomputing Conference 2013, Micron's Automata Processor is implemented as a scalable two-dimensional on-chip fabric comprising thousands of processing elements, each programmed to perform a targeted task or operation.
This architecture mirrors the way that DRAM chips are organised, and enables the Automata Processor to perform high-speed, comprehensive search and analysis of complex, unstructured data streams, which the sequential instruction processing nature of existing CPU and GPU architectures is not well suited to, according to Micron.
The concept is similar to a vector processor, but while such architectures typically apply a single instruction to a large volume of data simultaneously, the Automata Processor appears to comprise a large array of individually programmable elements.
Some analysts are impressed with the potential of the device, with IDC's high-performance systems research manager Chirag Dekate proclaiming it as a breakthrough technology.
"This technology has the potential to solve some of the world's most complicated data-intensive challenges, including real-time security that could dramatically affect anti-terrorism efforts, or the highly efficient analysis of complex plant genomes that could allow scientists to rapidly advance their research agendas beyond what is possible today," he said.
Micron said it has finished designing the Automata Processor and has prototypes running at its Boise facility in Idaho, while samples will be available in 2014. Also promised for delivery in 2014 is a software development kit (SDK) to enable developers to design, compile, test and deploy applications on the Automata Processor.
As befits its memory-like architecture, the Automata Processor will be available as single components or fitted onto dual in-line memory modules (Dimm, pictured) for easier integration. The processor also uses a DDR3-like memory interface, chosen to simplify the design process for system integrators, according to Micron.
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