Software for parallel programming multicore processors is a significant focus for Hot Chips this year. For example, the conference will host a half-day tutorial on OpenCL with speakers from AMD, Apple, Nokia and Nvidia.
In a departure from chip-oriented papers, organizers also have planned a session where leading research labs will report on their efforts to define parallel programming models for tomorrow's multicore chips. The lack of parallel programming tools for future many-core architectures is seen as the most pressing problem in computer science today.
The conference will also play host to classic rivalries in chip architecture. Intel will present details of its Nehalem EX, a dual-threaded eight-core version of its Xeon 5500 with enhanced memory bandwidth suitable for four-socket systems. Archrival AMD will counter with a paper on Magny Cours, a single-threaded 12-core part supporting four memory controllers.
I think Nehalem EX is likely to be a higher performing chip than the Magny Cours," said Brookwood, but the competition between the two "may be close," he added.
For its part, IBM will present two papers on Power7, a follow on to its 65nm dual-core Power6 chip that has been shipping since 2007. IBM has confirmed Power7 will sport 8 cores. It is expected to be made in a 45nm process and ship in systems next year.
Among other processors at Hot Chips, Sun will describe Rainbow Falls, a third generation of its aggressively multi-threaded Niagara architecture aimed at Web servers.
Intel and Texas Instruments will face off in mobile processors. Intel will describe Moorestown, its next-generation mobile platform including the Atom CPU and a core logic chip. TI will describe the OMAP 4430, its next-generation applications processor.
FPGA rivals Xilinx and Altera will also detail their next-generation parts. Xilinx will discuss the Virtex6 and Altera will present on its Stratix IV GT.