Apart from its dominance in the computer software industry, Microsoft is also known for its efforts in the hardware field. Some of its most exciting and secretive hardware work pertains to chip design, whose applications have been seen in HoloLens.
Now we’ve got some new information on Microsoft’s homegrown processor architecture, named E2, whose development work has remained a secret over the past years. E2 uses a radically different instruction set architecture called Explicit Data Graph Execution, also being called “EDGE.”
As per a detailed report from The Register, the company has recently been able to port Linux and Windows 10 to this CPU design. Moreover, the company’s engineers have also been successful in bringing C++ and .NET Core libraries, Windows kernel debugger, RyuJIT compiler, Visual C++ command line tools, FreeRTOS, and BusyBox to E2.
Coming back to E2’s design, its prototype exists in the form of FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays). As per a deleted page from Microsoft Research’s website, EDGE encodes data dependencies between instructions to make sure that they aren’t rediscovered again at runtime. Further, it groups instructions into atomic blocks and provides a larger unit of work.
Apart from EDGE, with the “Core Fusion” technique, E2 is able to dynamically compose physical cores into powerful logical processors to help a single chip serve the needs of a wide variety of workloads. It also allows different physical cores to work independently, in parallel, or together–as per the need of the workload.
The company demonstrated Windows running on an E2 simulator earlier this year at International Symposium on Computer Architecture. It has also been revealed that Microsoft has partnered with Qualcomm on this project.
As per the statements provided to The Register, Microsoft has called E2 “a research project, and there are currently no plans to productize it.”
“We expect to be able to incorporate learnings from the work into our ongoing research,” the company adds.
Please note that E2 CPU design and EDGE architecture are in their very initial stage and we don’t know what could happen in the near future. Still, feel free to read the complete report to get all the details.