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Massively Parallel Digital Video
Tom R. Halfhill - Senior Editor  {01/09/2006}

Three 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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