Once in a while a technology is announced that does make the breath catch a bit.

The Intel 48-core processor is just such an announcement - or to give it its real name, the Intel single-chip Cloud Computer, a processor that offers a world of possibilities.

For a moment, I was taken by Tomorrow's World in the 70s where someone, usually Raymond Baxter, would enthuse excitedly about some technology or another which had been shrunk to the size of a matchbox or a fingernail. So, the Intel announcement with its promise of miniature data centre appears to be a throwback to those days.

The company dropped hints about a projected graphics chip called Larrabee at its Intel Developer Forum in September but this wasn't the same thing at all. This is a technology that Intel CTO Justin Rattner hinted at last month when he said that the new chip would have more  cores than any other on the market.

 Last year, Intel revealed an experimental 80-core chip - technology that seemed to have been developed purely to show off as it didn't seem to have any practical function but the SCC chip seems to have a much more solid purpose

One of the most exciting uses is going to be in parallel computing. Intel's Jim Held has blogged about some of the possibilities of bringing some of the technologies enjoyed by super-computers into the cloud.

The power efficiency of the processor is set to stir the market even more. Intel says that each of the cores independently can run from 25W to 125W, which not only offers an amazing range of uses but offers a new level of power saving.

The Intel concept is a long way short of being a finished product but it's offered a glimpse of how data centres are to be developed in the future that is generally exciting - and one that might genuinely happen.