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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?

Sohmers was inspired by Adapteva's Epiphany chip, on which he based his first prototypes. But the chip lacked the memory bandwidth and double precision support he wanted.

New metric for top supercomputers

The start-up sketched out a system design (below) that takes up just a third of one of the OCP 1U server nodes. It uses a 4x4 array of the chips controlled by a second device that Rex will initially implement in an FPGA. The design could deliver about 50 Gflops/watt in double precision floating point, Sohmers said.

Rex Computing

A control chip running Linux will provide access to the Neo array and could be programmed in C for highly parallel applications. But getting maximum use of the new chips would require adopting one of a handful of emerging parallel programming approaches, such as Unified C or Erlang, he said.

The systems would target markets such as oil and gas exploration and machine learning. The start-up is raising a modest seed round to fund the tape out of its first Neo chip.

At the recent Supercomputing 2014 event, Sohmers was a member in a panel discussion with technology leaders from Cray, IBM, and US national labs on the outlook for exascale-class systems. Some say such systems are beyond the projectable future, in part because today's systems are overrated.

The Top 500 list uses a 30-year-old Linpack benchmark that "doesn't really stress memory bandwidth or simulate real apps," Sohmers said.

The so-called high-performance conjugant gradient benchmark (HPCG) is a more realistic measurement. A list based on this metric shows systems getting just one-60th of their Linpack performance, so today's most powerful system barely cranks out half a petaflop. "It's pretty abysmal," Sohmers said.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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