The CPU’s reign as Czar is over

You can forget about CPUs and the future depends on the cooperation of different engines on SoCs, said Tony King-Smith, EVP marketing, Imagination Technologies here in Dublin today

King-Smith of Imagination consulted his crystal ball to discuss the future of silicon IP.  He said that for volume businesses, consumer trends and behaviours can never be underestimated. Even though they might not understand what technology is, they know how technology relates to their lives.

Understanding the real trends is more important than endless spreadsheets, he said.  All target markets are converging on common SoC platforms. It makes its money out of licensing, a little bit like ARM. Everything is connected to the cloud and unified memory is a huge driver for the future.

SoCs means everything is now mobile, and continues to have advanced capabilities. SoCs are the only way to get scaleability, said King-Smith.

Everything is dominated by power these days and because there’s so much churn people are driving demand.  He said that on-chip accelerators have come a long way and now centreing a system on the CPU isn’t much cop any more.  It has to cooperate wwith the other elements. Ne architecture does not fit all applications. Putting everything onto the CPU doesn’t work any more.

Imagination believes that heterogeneous Socs is the future, and each of the processors, whether it’s CPU, GPU, VPU  (videos) or RPU (radio) has to be optimised.  

Each processor has its own optimised architecture and needs, said King-Smith. They’re all programmable and optimisable.  GPUs are dominating SoC processing, he said.  GPUs will occupy the largest area of many SoCs.

Memory bandwidth is the biggest challenge for manufacturers and physical design optimisation is important too – but “power is the ultimate battleground”, said King-Smith.  Dark silicon is one of the new economic challenges, he said. Benchmarks usually ignore power but Imagination wants to change all of that.