Silicon Valley startup Soft Machines presented its VISC CPU architecture at the Linley Microprocessor Conference. The company claims VISC can deliver three to four time more instructions per cycle (IPC) than today's CISC and RISC-inspired CPU designs, resulting in two to four times more performance per Watt on both single- and multi-threaded applications. VISC promises to be highly scalable, capable of running everything from low-power Internet of Things devices to high-end server processors.
While such extraordinary claims are typically suspicious coming from a startup, the firm claims to have recieved over $125 million in funding from investors like Samsung Ventures, AMD, and Mubadala (owner of GlobalFoundries).
The VISC architecture is based on the concept of "virtual cores" and "virtual hardware threads." This new approach enables dynamic allocation and sharing of resources across cores. Microprocessors based on CISC and RISC architectures make use of "physical cores" and "software threads," an approach that has been technologically and economically hamstrung by transistor utilization, frequency and power-scaling limitations.
If this architecture can bunch together groups of disparate execution units and registers in order to accelerate the execution of a single software thread, it could turn out to be something truly interesting. That seems to be the claim the firm is making. Here's more from President and CTO Mohammad Abdallah:
"We founded Soft Machines with the mission of reviving microprocessor performance-per-watt scaling. We have done just that with the VISC architecture, marking the start of a new era of CPU designs," said Soft Machines co-founder, president and CTO Mohammad Abdallah. "CPU scaling was declared dead when the power wall forced CISC- and RISC-based designs into multi-core implementations that require unrealistically complex multi-threading of sequential applications. The VISC architecture solves this problem 'under the hood' by running virtual hardware threads on virtual cores that far exceed the efficiency of software multi-threading." The VISC architecture scales by changing the number of virtual cores and virtual threads. This approach provides a single architecture capable of addressing the needs of applications spanning from the Internet of Things (IoT), to mobile, and to data center markets.