The World's Biggest AI Chip Now Comes Stock With 2.6 Trillion Transistors

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The world's biggest AI chip just doubled its specs—without adding an inch. The updated mega-chip should be a lot faster and more efficient.
The world's biggest AI chip just doubled its specs—without adding an inch.

The Cerebras Systems Wafer Scale Engine is about the size of a big dinner plate. All that surface area enables a lot more of everything, from processors to memory. The first WSE chip, released in 2019, had an incredible 1.2 trillion transistors and 400,000 processing cores. Its successor doubles everything, except its physical size.

The WSE-2 crams in 2.6 trillion transistors and 850,000 cores on the same dinner plate. Its on-chip memory has increased from 18 gigabytes to 40 gigabytes, and the rate it shuttles information to and from said memory has gone from 9 petabytes per second to 20 petabytes per second.

It's a beast any way you slice it.

The WSE-2 is manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and it was a jump from TSMC's 16-nanometer chipmaking process to its 7-nanometer process—skipping the 10-nanometer node—that enabled most of the WSE-2's gains.

This required changes to the physical design of the chip, but Cerebras says they also made improvements to each core above and beyond what was needed to make the new process work. The updated mega-chip should be a lot faster and more efficient.

Why Make Giant Computer Chips?

While graphics processing units (GPUs) still reign supreme in artificial intelligence, they weren't made for AI in particular. Rather, GPUs were first developed and used for graphics-heavy applications like gaming.

They've done amazing things for AI and supercomputing, but in the last several years, specialized chips made for AI are on the up and up.

Cerebras is one of the contenders, alongside other up-and-comers like Graphcore and SambaNova and more familiar names like Intel and NVIDIA.

The company likes to compare the WSE-2 to a top AI processor (NVIDIA's A100) to underscore just how different it is from the competition. The A100 has two percent the number of transistors (54.2 billion) occupying a little under two percent…
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