Published in News

Finnish outfit makes accelerator chip

by on12 June 2024

Claims it can double the speed of any CPU

A Finnish startup, Flow Computing, claims that by adding its unique secondary chip, any central processing unit (CPU) can immediately see its performance doubled and potentially increase up to 100 times with further software adjustments.

If this all pans out, it could significantly aid the industry in meeting the growing computational demands of artificial intelligence developers.

Flow emerged from VTT, a research institution in Finland supported by the state, comparable to a national laboratory. The chip technology they are introducing to the market, known as the Parallel Processing Unit, stems from research conducted at this lab.

Although VTT has invested in the company, Flow retains intellectual property ownership. Flow acknowledges that their claim may seem absurd at first glance. After all, one would think that if such a dramatic enhancement were feasible, leading companies like Intel or AMD would have achieved it long ago.

However, Flow has been developing a concept that, while theoretically possible, has not yet been realised.

CPUs have evolved significantly from their origins with vacuum tubes and punch cards, yet they retain some core similarities. Their primary constraint is that they operate serially, not in parallel, meaning they process one task simultaneously.

They switch tasks incredibly quickly, billions of times per second, across various cores and channels, but this is merely a workaround for the CPU’s inherent single-task nature.

In contrast, a graphics processing unit (GPU) can handle numerous related computations simultaneously but is tailored for specific tasks.

Flow CEO Timo Valtonen said: “The CPU is the weakest link in computing. It’s not performing adequately, and that has to change.”

Despite the remarkable speed of modern CPUs, there is still significant inefficiency in executing instructions, primarily due to the restriction that one operation must conclude before another can commence.

Flow claims to have eliminated this bottleneck, transforming the CPU from a single-track road into a multi-lane expressway. The CPU’s capacity to perform only one task simultaneously remains unchanged.

Still, Flow’s Parallel Processing Unit, or PPU, is designed to manage task allocation at the nanosecond level, enabling faster processing than ever before. Flow has recently emerged from stealth mode and secured approximately $4.3 million in initial funding from various investors, including Butterfly Ventures and Business Finland.

Flow’s main hurdle is collaboration at the chip design stage to integrate its technology. This necessitates chip manufacturers reworking their products to incorporate the PPU, which is a significant investment.

Due to the industry's conservative nature and the established plans of major chip producers, adopting this novel technology may be gradual.

 Companies tend to be hesitant to embrace new, untested technologies that could interfere with their long-term strategies.

Last modified on 12 June 2024
Rate this item
(2 votes)