Array Processor : Architecture, Types, Working & Its Applications

A supercomputer is a very powerful computer that includes architecture, resources & components that gives a huge computing power to the consumer. A supercomputer also contains a large number of processors which performs millions or billions of computations each second. So these computers can perform numerous tasks in a few seconds. There are three types of supercomputers tightly connected cluster computers that work together like a single unit. Commodity computers can connect to low latency & high-bandwidth LANs and finally vector processing computers which depend on an array processor or vectors. An array processor is like a CPU that helps in performing mathematical operations on various data elements. The most famous array processor is the ILLIAC IV computer which is designed by the Burroughs Corporation. This article discusses an overview of an array processor – working, types & applications.

What is Array Processor?

A processor which is used to perform different computations on a huge array of data is called an array processor. The other terms used for this processor are vector processors or multiprocessors. This processor performs only single instruction at a time on an array of data. These processors work with huge data sets to execute computations. So, they are mainly used for enhancing the performance of computers.

Array Processor Architecture

An array processor includes a number of ALUs (Arithmetic Logic Units) which allows all the array elements to be processed together. Each ALU in the processor is provided with local memory which is known as a Processing Element or PE. The architecture of this processor is shown below. By using this processor, a single instruction is issued through a control unit & that instruction is simply applied to a number of data sets simultaneously. By using a single instruction, a similar operation is performed on an array of data which makes it suitable for vector computations.

Array Processor Architecture
                                 Array Processor Architecture

The array processing architecture is known as a 2-dimensional array or matrix. This architecture is implemented by the two-dimensional processor. In this processor, the CPU issues a single instruction & after that, it is applied to a no. of data simultaneously. This architecture mainly depends on the fact that all data sets work on similar instructions, however, if these data sets are reliant on each other, it is not achievable to apply parallel processing. Thus these processors contribute efficiently & enhance the processing speed as compared to the whole instructions.

Working of Array Processor

An array processor has an architecture mainly designed for processing arrays of numbers. This processor architecture contains a number of processors that works simultaneously, each handling one array element, so that a single operation is applied to all the array elements in parallel. To get the same effect within a conventional processor, the operation should be applied to every array element sequentially and much more slowly.

This processor is a self-contained unit connected to the main computer through an internal bus or an I/O port. This processor increases the overall speed of instruction processing. These processors operate asynchronously from the host CPU to improve the overall system capacity. This processor is a very powerful tool that handles troubles with a high level of parallelism.

Types of Array Processor

There are two types of array processor like; attached and SIMD which is discussed below.

Attached Array Processor

The auxiliary processor like the attached array processor is shown below. This processor is simply connected to a computer for enhancing the performance of a machine within numerical computational tasks. This processor is connected to the General Purpose Computer through an I/O interface and a local memory interface where both the memories like the main & the local are connected. This processor achieves high performance through parallel processing by multiple functional units.

Attached Array Processor
                                                        Attached Array Processor

SIMD Array Processor

SIMD (‘Single Instruction and Multiple Data Stream’) processors is a computers with several processing units which operate in parallel. These processing units perform the same operation in synchronizing under the supervision of the common control unit (CCU). The SIMD processor includes a set of identical PEs (processing elements) where each PES has a local memory.

SIMD Array Processor
                                     SIMD Array Processor

This processor includes a master control unit and main memory. The master control unit in the processor controls the operation of the processing elements. And also, decodes the instruction & determines how the instruction is executed. So, if the instruction is program control or scalar then it is executed directly in the master control unit. Main memory is mainly used to store the program while every processing unit uses operands that are stored in its local memory.


The advantages of an array processor include the following.

  • Array processors improve the whole instruction processing speed.
  • These processors run asynchronously from the host CPU the overall capacity of the system is improved.
    These processors include their own local memory that provides extra memory to systems. So this is an important consideration for the systems through a limited address space or physical memory.
  • These processors simply perform computations on a huge array of data.
  • These are extremely powerful tools that help in handling troubles with a high amount of parallelism.
  • This processor includes a number of ALUs that permits all the array elements to be processed simultaneously.
  • Generally, the I/O devices of this processor-array system are very efficient in supplying the required data to the memory directly.
  • The main advantage of using this processor with a range of sensors is a slighter footprint.


The applications of array processors include the following.

  • This processor is used in medical and astronomy applications.
  • These are very helpful in speech improvement.
  • These are used in sonar and radar systems.
  • These are applicable in anti-jamming, seismic exploration & wireless communication.
  • This processor is connected to a general-purpose computer to improve the computer’s performance within arithmetic computational tasks. So it attains high performance through parallel processing by several functional units.

Thus, this is an overview of an array processor which has a specific architecture to deal with numerical arrays. This processor is designed as an independent unit and it is connected to a computer through an internal bus or I/O port. The ILLIAC IV computer is the most famous SIMD array processor which is designed by the Burroughs Corporation. An array processor & a vector processor both are the same with a slight difference. The difference between these two processors is; a vector processor utilizes several vector pipelines but an array processor uses a no. of processing elements to work in parallel. Here is a question for you, what is a processor?