by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office
Computer chips have stopped getting faster. To keep improving chips’ performance, manufacturers have turned to adding more “cores,” or processing units, to each chip. In principle, a chip with two cores can run twice as fast as a chip with only one core, a chip with four cores four times as fast, and so on.
But breaking up computational tasks so that they run efficiently on multiple cores is a difficult task, and it only gets harder as the number of cores increases. So a number of ambitious research projects, including one at MIT, are reinventing computing, from chip architecture all the way up to the design of programming languages, to ensure that adding cores continues to translate to improved performance.
To managers of large office networks or Internet server farms, this is a daunting prospect. Is the computing landscape about to change completely? Will information-technology managers have to relearn their trade from scratch?
Probably not, say a group of MIT researchers. In a paper they’re presenting
on Oct. 4 at the USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation in Toronto, the researchers argue that, for at least the next few years, the Linux operating system should be able to keep pace with changes in chip design.