Coming up with new CPU designs isn't quite as easy as coming up with new flavors of ice cream. First, you need to figure out exactly what you want the core to accomplish, along with what critical components are needed to meet that goal. Then, after that's sorted, the process moves to a second stage called "design implementation" -- basically, figuring out how to actually make the CPU the architectural engineers dreamed up. It's a long, laborious procedure, but now North Carolina State University researchers claim they've developed a tool to quickly automate the design implementation process.
The researchers say their tool allows CPU core designers to simply plug in their architectural specifications; the tool will take it from there and handle all the implementation design dirty work, and in much less time than it takes humans to complete the same task. The university claims that this tool can cut development time for a new CPU design from years down to months.
Here's the elevator pitch for the tool, straight from the NCSU website :
Specifically, the tool creates a “synthesizable register-transfer-level design” of the core. This design can be used to create the suite of manufacturing blueprints manufacturers need to actually fabricate the cores .
"Processor designers will be free to create interesting ensembles of diverse cores because they won’t be bogged down by the minutiae of core implementation," says Eric Rotenberg, the lead engineer on the process. "In turn this will lead to faster and more capable computing devices that last longer between battery charges."
Heady words, but are they true? Engineering geeks who also happen to be IEEE subscribers can check out the full research paper and judge things for themselves. (Non-subscribers can purchase the article for $19.) The rest of us will just have to wait and see if Intel's tick-tocks start coming out on a quarterly basis.