Engineers Boost Computer Processor Performance 20 Percent

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique that allows graphics processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) on a single chip to collaborate – boosting processor performance by an average of more than 20 percent.

“Chip manufacturers are now creating processors that have a ‘fused architecture’, meaning that they include CPUs and GPUs on a single chip,” says Dr. Huiyang Zhou, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who co-authored a paper on the research. “This approach decreases manufacturing costs and makes computers more energy efficient. However, the CPU cores and GPU cores still work almost exclusively on separate functions. They rarely collaborate to execute any given program, so they aren’t as efficient as they could be. That’s the issue we’re trying to resolve.”

According to Zhou, the researchers’ approach is to allow the GPU cores to execute computational functions and have CPU cores pre-fetch the data the GPUs will need from off-chip main memory. “This approach [is] more efficient because it allows CPUs and GPUs to do what they are good at. GPUs are good at performing computations. CPUs are good at making decisions and flexible data retrieval,” says Zhou.

In other words, CPUs and GPUs retrieve data from off-chip main memory at approximately the same speed, but GPUs can execute the functions that use that data more quickly. So, if a CPU can determine what data a GPU will need and fetch it in advance, the GPU can focus just on executing the functions – and the overall process takes less time.

The paper, titled “CPU-Assisted GPGPU on Fused CPU-GPU Architectures,” will be presented February 27 at the 18th International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture in New Orleans, LA, USA. You can read more at