Microsoft, Intel Join U.S. Universities for Research

March 19, 2008
Companies will spend $20 million with University of California and University of Illinois to explore parallel computing

Microsoft and Intel will jointly spend $20 million over five years to fund Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to unleash the mighty potential of multi-core computer chips.

"It is important for industry to work in tandem with academia to unleash the immense power of parallel computing," said Microsoft Research vice president Tony Hey.

"This is a once-in-a-career opportunity to recast the foundations of information technology and influence the entire IT industry for decades to come," said UC Berkeley professor of computer sciences David Patterson. The universities will have to provide millions of dollars in funding for the centers in what is said to be an unprecedented parallel computing research alliance.

A recent trend is to increase computing power but reduce electricity use and heat production by crafting multiple processors, or computer brains, into each chip. Designing software and support architecture that best enables such chips to divide tasks equally among the brains, or cores, in ways that let them simultaneously tend to jobs and maximize computing speeds has proved daunting.

Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices already market chips with two or four cores and say it is likely the number will rise. Intel researchers have made an 80-core research processor. "We're quickly moving the computing industry to a many-core world," said Intel Research director Andrew Chien.

Harnessing the power of multi-core chips will let computers "bridge the physical world with the virtual," according to Chien. He expects "efficient and robust" applications for digital media, data analysis, and Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Predicted research breakthroughs include software enabling people's mobile telephone to recognize faces of approaching acquaintances and whisper their names to users. Another foreseeable application is described as voice recognition software so accurate it could be used to record witness testimony in courtroom proceedings.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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