After quad-core comes massive multicore

If you're like me and wondering what the future of the microprocessor might herald, then this report at CNET should put your questions to rest. According to the article, "Intel readies massive multicore processors," researchers at Intel are furiously working on making processors with as many as 64 cores and beyond a reality.

If Intel would have it, massively multicore processors are nearer to us than we think. But before that can happen, there are a number of challenges that need to be surmounted first.

The most immediate low-level problem involves getting so many chips to share caches in an efficient manner. So says Jerry Bautista, co-director of Intel's Tera-scale Computing Research Program:

Cores on many dual- and quad-core chips on the market today share caches, but it's a somewhat manageable problem. When you get to eight and 16 cores, it can get pretty complicated.

Other issues involve managing the heat inherent in such a powerful single piece of silicon of which a potentially possible solution could involve using a "scheduler" to dish out jobs in a manner that will prevent the emergence of "hot spots". Simply put, computing jobs are shifted to a neighbor if a particular core starts getting warm.

Of course, the perennial problem would be the ease of programming. One possible idea proposed cloaking all these cores in a metaphorical exoskeleton so that all of these cores appears simply as a giant core to the software.

How will it all pan out? It is hard to tell exactly at this moment, though Intel executives have said they would like to see massive multicore chips coming out within the next five years. So keep your seatbelt fastened!

I know we just talked about quad-core on laptops not so long ago, but how do you see massive multicore processors affecting the IT landscape, especially on the software licensing and application programming front? Join the discussion.