IBM debuts power-efficient NorthPole machine learning processor

IBM Corp. at present detailed NorthPole, an internally designed synthetic intelligence chip that it says is considerably extra power-efficient than competing processors.
NorthPole was developed over the course of eight years by staffers on the firm’s analysis lab in Almaden, California. The chip builds on an earlier IBM analysis undertaking that produced an AI-optimized processor referred to as TrueNorth. According to IBM, NorthPole is about 4,000 occasions sooner.
The newly debuted chip consists of twenty-two billion transistors made utilizing a 12-nanometer course of. According to IBM, these transistors are organized into 256 cores that may every carry out 2,048 calculations per clock cycle with eight-bit precision. This means the calculations are carried out on comparatively small numbers that take as much as eight bits of house.
Each of NorthPole’s 256 cores consists of an built-in reminiscence pool that shops the data utilized in computations. Because the chip’s reminiscence circuits and cores are close to one another, information can journey between in a brief period of time. That reduces the processing delays related to information motion and thereby improves efficiency.
“Architecturally, NorthPole blurs the boundary between compute and reminiscence,” mentioned Dharmendra Modha, IBM’s chief scientist for brain-inspired computing. “At the extent of particular person cores, NorthPole seems as memory-near-compute and from exterior the chip, on the stage of input-output, it seems as an energetic reminiscence.”
Another advantage of the reminiscence circuits constructed into NorthPole’s cores is that they enhance vitality effectivity. Moving information between totally different components of a chip not solely delays processing but in addition consumes electrical energy. By minimizing the gap that information should journey between reminiscence circuits and cores, NorthPole’s structure saves vitality.
IBM measured the chip’s energy consumption by having it run an open-source picture recognition mannequin referred to as ResNet-50. The mannequin is usually used to match totally different AI processors’ capabilities. According to IBM, NorthPole ran ResNet-50 with 25 occasions greater power-efficiency than graphics playing cards and central processing models primarily based on 12- and 14-nanometer nodes, respectively.
NorthPole’s power-efficiency is constrained by the truth that it’s additionally made utilizing a 12-nanometer node, which is a number of generations behind the most recent three-nanometer course of out there to chipmakers. However, the processor might be upgraded to newer manufacturing applied sciences. IBM researchers reportedly estimate that such an improve might enable NorthPole to offer 25 occasions greater vitality effectivity than rival chips primarily based on “present designs.”
A processor’s energy consumption straight influences the quantity of warmth it produces. IBM says that NorthPole’s vitality effectivity limits its most temperature, which suggests the chip requires solely easy exterior cooling tools to run. As a outcome, it might probably be deployed in space-constrained techniques reminiscent of autonomous automobiles which have restricted room for cooling gear.
Image: IBM

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