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Start-up eyes parallel CPU with 10x leap in performance

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:start-up? parallel? processor? supercomputers? Rex Computing?

Two teens will soon change the world of supercomputers with a parallel processor that delivers a 10x leap in performance per watt for high-end systems. Rex Computing will make open source its instruction set architecture in hopes of rallying supporters around it.

The start-up's ambitions are high, as explained by chief executive Thomas Sohmers, who recently became old enough to sign the company's contracts. He aims to create an alternative to today's processors and accelerators, which are too expensive (mainly in power consumption) to scale to the exaflop performance researchers hope to deliver in the next decade.

"We've got a long and difficult road ahead of us as an industry. It's pretty well accepted, going down the current path with Intel and Nvidia processors following Moore's Law, that there's a pretty good chance we won't get to exascale systems by the current time estimates," Sohmers said. "So we need something new, and we're trying to deliver that, but it's a tough sell. There's a lot of reluctance to go for something new."

Sohmers was recently elected co-chairman of the high-performance working group under the Open Compute Project (OCP) started by Facebook. He hopes Rex can finish the design of its neo core as early as January and make it open source through the group.

"The idea is for this to be a base architecture others can build on for future systems," he said. "It would be the first OCP project to go all the way to silicon. Other members would contribute on-chip interconnects and actual Verilog and RTL."

Rex Computing

The 3W Neo chip packs into 80 mm2 256 cores (one of which is shown above), each consisting of a 64bit ALU, IEEE floating point unit, and 128KB of SRAM scratch pad memory. Each core has a 16GB link to its neighbours with about 384GB of aggregate bandwidth between chips.

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