For nearly 10 years, computer processors have been getting faster by using multiple cores rather than raising their individual speeds. This measure makes our PCs and smartphones more power-efficient, but also makes it much trickier to write programs that take full advantage of their hardware. Swarm, a new chip design developed at MIT, could now come to the rescue and unleash the full power of parallel processing for up to 75-fold speedups, while requiring programmers to write a fraction of the code.
Developed by Prof. Daniel Sanchez and team, Swarm is a 64-core chip that includes specialized circuitry for both executing and prioritizing tasks in a simple and efficient manner, taking the onus off software developers.
Writing software for a multi-core chip is a lot like coordinating a complex team project: not all tasks can be delegated, and the ones that can must be carefully split among team members. With software, this sort of planning can be complicated, time-consuming, and add substantial overheads that end up slowing the software's execution. For this reason, parallel programming is usually convenient only for large tasks that number thousands of instructions.