Multi-processor

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A multi-processor is a system with more than one CPU. There are a tremendous range of designs, from 'tightly-coupled' (where they share access to some main memory, which usually has to be multi-port memory), onward.

Another axis for dividing them is among:

  • MIMD - 'multiple instruction streams, multiple data sets'
  • SIMD - 'single instruction streams, multiple data sets'

In the latter, each CPU is fed different data, but they all execute the same instructions in the same order.

Among tightly-coupled systems, one can distinguish between 'symmetric' and 'asymmetric' systems. In the former, all the CPUs are 'equal', and no CPU has a special, distinguished role (so often any CPU can e.g. field interrupts from any peripheral). The latter are often so-called 'master/slave' systems, with one CPU in the first class, and one or more in the second.

With the advent of very-high-speed LANs, it is now common to create multi-processors by simply linking together a number of ordinary systems by use of such a network.