Intel Looks to 1 Billion-Transistor Chip

"Super chip," which will feature four cores surrounding a shared 12MB to 16MB memory cache, could arrive by 2007.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Offering a possible peek at how Itanium processors may look in 2007, a senior Intel Corp. engineer on Tuesday unveiled the blueprint for a 1 billion-transistor processor.

Although he discounted the idea that he was making a product announcement, Intel Fellow John Crawford nevertheless appeared to strongly suggest that his blueprint of a four-core processor would likely be developed to power future computers.

"This is eminently doable, and you can expect things of this nature coming out," said Crawford, who helped design the Pentium and Itanium processors and holds the title of Intel fellow, the chip makers highest-ranking technical position.

"Advances in technology are propelling us toward the era of the 1 billion-chip microprocessor," and the industry needs to figure out how to design and harness the power of such super chips, he said in a keynote address to several hundred industry engineers and developers at the annual Microprocessor Forum here.

Based on Moores Law--an amazingly accurate prediction Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made 30 years ago that transistor density on chips would double every 18 to 24 months--the first 1 billion-transistor processor will arrive on the market in 2007, putting it in the not-too-distant future for high-tech designers.

While the challenges of designing a 1 billion-transistor processor are daunting, Crawfords presentation indicated that Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., is already well on its way toward resolving many of the major issues.

Showing "how one might use a billion transistors in a server product," Crawford displayed a blueprint for a processor featuring four cores surrounding a shared 12MB to 16MB memory cache.