Intel offered another glimpse at their long-term plans this week by unveiling what they call the "single-chip cloud computer," a concept processor that houses 48 fully programmable x86 cores on a single silicon die. The chip is an offspring of its Tera-scale research and development program aimed at scaling multi-core architectures for the future, and comes two years after the company unveiled the 80-core Polaris prototype.

Both chips employ a "network" approach that keeps each one of the x86 cores communicating with each other at full speed. However, this latest version also features newer power management techniques that allow it to consume no more than 125W at peak load and as little as 25W, even when all 48 cores are active.

While no specific details were given regarding its performance, the idea is to increase processing power by having many Pentium-class cores running simultaneously at modest clock speeds rather than just driving up frequency. Cores can be turned on and off or change their performance levels, continuously adapting to use the minimum energy needed at a given moment.

This is a similar approach to that being touted by Tilera, a five-year-old fabless semiconductor startup that has already unveiled designs for even more efficient chips containing 16, 36, 64, and up to 100 cores.