If you thought that the quad core CPU whirring away under the hood of your new PC put you squarely on the bleeding edge of tech, think again.

Intel Labs has a demonstrated a CPU that packs a boggling 20-fold increase in computing power compared to the current crop of the silicon powering today's personal computers.

The experimental CPU has been branded as a "single-chip cloud computer," and packs a whopping 48 independent processing cores. Intel developed it as a prototype to demonstrate the massive scalability possible with future computers and to provide a workhorse for the development of new applications.

To this end, Intel has also announced they will share 100 of these processors with industry and academia in 2010 for developing new software applications and programming models.

Intels "single-chip cloud computer" moniker comes out of the fact the chip design is similar to how today's data centres create a "cloud" of computing resources over the internet, using large numbers of networked computers that do computing tasks in parallel.

The new experimental mega-cored monolith chip from Intel uses a similar approach, but crams the equivalent of 48 computers and networks onto a single silicon chip that's about the size of a postage stamp.

While Intel plans to sell six- and eight-core processors in 2010, 48 processor cores is the most ever crammed onto a single chip.

Thankfully the company has also thrown in cutting-edge power management that allows all 48 cores to operate on the electronic equivalent of the smell of an oily rag, with as little as 25 to 125 watts of energy consumed (which isn't much more than today's current crop of dual or quad core CPU's consumption).

With the ability to tap into 48 independent processing cores, the potential for applications are tantalising.

According to Intel's blurb, future uber PCs packing 48 cores of processing goodness could, for instance, give PCs more accuracy in voice or object recognition.

This technology could also be deployed in the servers housed in future data centres, with massive energy savings and huge gains in computing power per rack of servers being realised.

Intel has yet to give their 48 core monster of chip a formal codename, and many expect that like previous chips, Intels codename will be derived from a US town or city.

Personally I'm hoping they call it "Deep Thought" after the universe's most power computer from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Source: NZ Herald