Massively Parallel Digital Video
Tom R. Halfhill - Senior Editor
things in life seem certain: death, taxes, and new microprocessor
architectures. Unlike the first two things, new architectures aren’t
necessarily bad, but they are becoming even more expensive. These days,
processor architects need good reasons for instigating the years of
engineering and $50 million or so investment required to bring a new
chip to market.
The latest new microprocessor architecture to
emerge is unconventional, massively parallel, and optimized for the
narrow domain of high-definition (HD) digital video. Although Connex
Technology’s architecture is applicable to other purposes—such as
pattern-matching filters in security processing—digital video is the
largest potential market offering an opportunity for a profitable
return on investment.
One twist is that the chief scientist
behind the new architecture is Dr. George Stefan, a professor of
electrical engineering at the Polytechnica University of Bucharest in
Romania. Stefan worked on his idea for 20 years before finding backers
to help launch Connex in 2002. (The company’s original name was
Gemicer, an amalgam of “Gemini” and “Cancer”—the astrological signs of
one cofounder’s children.) Among Stefan’s backers was John H. Sununu,
former governor of New Hampshire and White House chief of staff under
President George H.W. Bush.
Stefan has invented a concept he
calls the integral parallel architecture. It orchestrates a massive
array of simple processor cores to execute data-intensive algorithms.
The first Connex test chip, produced in December 2003, had more than
4,000 processor cores. Connex, a fabless semiconductor company, is now
headquartered in Silicon Valley and emerging from stealth mode. Connex
has disclosed its new architecture to Microprocessor Report but won’t
officially announce a chip until the first working silicon returns from
the fab—perhaps as soon as this quarter (1Q06).
Microprocessor Report readers can access the full story (6 pages; 4 graphics) here: www.mdronline.com/mpr/h/2006/0109/200201.html. To find out more about Microprocessor Report, please visit: www.mdronline.com.
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