Ed Sperling, Semiconductor Engineering
February 14th, 2014
First of Two Parts: Clock speeds can’t go higher, and most software still can’t take advantage of multiple cores. A look at what’s next.
In 2004, Intel introduced a new line of Pentium chips that ran at 3.6GHz. Fast forward to today, and the company’s i7 processors run at 3.5GHz with a Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz.
There have been many improvements in the meantime. There is more cache and dramatically faster access to data stored in that cache. And there are more cores with improved coherency between them. But the big problem is physics—it’s impossible to turn up the clock speed on a single core for very long without burning the chip. More cores can solve that problem, but most software applications still can’t take advantage of more cores. Even controlling current leakage, and subsequently heat, with finFET transistors provides only a one-time gain.