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Tilera Targets Intel, AMD With 100-core Processor

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October 30, 2009 10:30:34 AM

http://tech.yahoo.com/news/pcworld/20091026/tc_pcworld/...

Tilera Targets Intel, AMD With 100-core Processor
By Agam Shah, IDG News Service - Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:20AM EDT
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Tilera on Monday announced new general-purpose CPUs, including a 100-core chip, as it tries to make its way into the server market dominated by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

The two-year-old startup's Tile-GX series of chips are targeted at servers and appliances that execute Web-related functions such as indexing, Web search and video search, said Anant Agarwal, cofounder and chief technology officer of Tilera, which is based in San Jose, California. The chips have the attributes of a general-purpose CPU as they can run the Linux OS and other applications commonly used to serve Web data.

"You can run us as an adjunct to something else, though the intent is to be able to run it stand-alone," Agarwal said. The chips could serve as co-processors alongside x86 chips, or potentially replace the chips in appliances and servers.

Chip makers are continuously adding cores as a way to boost application performance. Most x86 server chips today come with either four or six cores, but Intel is set to release the Nehalem-EX chip, an x86 microprocessor with eight cores. AMD will shortly follow with a 12-core Opteron chip code-named Magny Cours. Graphics processors from companies like AMD and Nvidia include hundreds of cores to run high-performance applications, though the chips are making their way into PCs.

The Gx100 100-core chip will draw close to 55 watts of power at maximum performance, Agarwal said. The 16-core chip will draw as little as 5 watts of power.

Tilera's chips have an advantage in performance-per watt compared to x86 chips, but some will be skeptical as the chips are not yet established, said Will Strauss, principal analyst at Forward Concepts.

"I don't think an average person is going to run out to buy a computer with Tilera in it," Strauss said. Intel has the advantage of being an incumbent, and even if Tilera offered something comparable to Intel's chips, it would take years to catch up.

But to start, Tilera is focusing the chips on specific applications that can scale in performance across a large number of cores. It has ported certain Linux applications commonly used in servers, like the Apache Web server, MySQL database and Memcached caching software, to the Tilera architecture.

"The reason we have target markets is not because of any technological limitations or other stuff in the chip. It is simply because, you know, you have to market your processor [to a] target audience. As a small company we can't boil the ocean," Agarwal said.

The company's strategy is to go after lucrative markets where parallel-processing capability has a quick payout, Strauss said. Tilera could expand beyond the Web space to other markets where low-power chips are needed.

It helps that applications can be programmed in C as with an Intel processor, but programmers are needed to write and port the applications, Strauss said. "How easy is it to port Windows or Linux also remains to be seen," he said.

Applications like Apache and MySQL already run on x86 chips and can be ported to run on Tilera chips, company executives said. In a co-processor environment, x86 processors will run legacy applications, while the Tilera will do the Web-specific applications, he said.

"As a smaller company, we can focus in on a couple of applications, drive those, and over time as we grow, we can expand," said Bob Doud, director of marketing at Tilera. The company didn't talk about the markets it would like to go into in the future.

However, industry analysts say that application performance either levels off or even deteriorates as more cores are added to chips. Part of the performance relies on how the cores are assembled, said Agarwal, who is also a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For faster data exchange, Tilera has organized parallelized cores in a square with multiple points to receive and transfer data. Each core has a switch for faster data exchange. Chips from Intel and AMD rely on crossbars, but as the number of cores expands, the design could potentially cause a gridlock that could lead to bandwidth issues, he said.

"You can have three or four streets coming in but ... it's hard to imagine 30 streets coming into an intersection," Agarwal said. The mesh architecture used in Tilera chips is expandable as the square gets bigger, he said.

In addition to additional cores, the new Tilera chips include many upgrades from their predecessors. The chips are speedier, running at up to 1.5GHz, with support for 64-bit processing. The chips will be made using the 40-nanometer process, which make them smaller and more power-efficient. Earlier chips were made using the 90-nm process. The chips will start shipping next year, with the 100-core chip scheduled to ship in early 2011. Volume pricing for the chips will range from US$400 to $1,000.
October 30, 2009 1:53:05 PM

yeah i read that , this is something like between gpgpu "shaders" and heavyweight cores like nehalem/phenom .... i have a feeling that these people have a chance , as i checked out their website and they do have multiple target markets figured out , like on the fly hdtv encoding for broadcasting , scientific number crunching , etc . lets wait and see . but a product of this type wont make its way to our desktops i guess , but lets wait and watch .

overall , i congratulate for someone other than amd and intel to address the x86 processor market , as more competition , albeit in a limited market atleast for now , is beneficial for consumers .
October 31, 2009 8:55:40 AM

Hmmmph !! What's really needed is a totally new non x86 OS and CPU that would/will rid us [we the people] of all this antiquated software and spyware ridden [back doors] mickey mouse crap that we have to put up with now...
Where's the innovators when we really need them???:( 
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October 31, 2009 9:05:32 AM

As far as I can tell, these are not x86 cores.

At the moment I run all my gfx on an 800-core chip, called my HD 4870.

Seems like all the tech journos have had their geekunits temporarily disabled by a BS Field.
a b à CPUs
October 31, 2009 11:04:13 AM

Well x86 isn't the target market for the chip. It's the supercomputing market... The target market has quite a few different archs like x86 and powerpc and the people are pretty happy.
a b à CPUs
a b å Intel
October 31, 2009 2:38:03 PM

dokk2 said:
Hmmmph !! What's really needed is a totally new non x86 OS and CPU that would/will rid us [we the people] of all this antiquated software and spyware ridden [back doors] mickey mouse crap that we have to put up with now...
Where's the innovators when we really need them???:( 
Intel made exactly the kind of CPU you've just described - it's called the Itanium. Windows runs on it. Are you rushing out to buy one? If not, why not?

Think about that a little bit, and you'll realize just why we're still stuck with the x86 architecture.
October 31, 2009 5:45:28 PM

MrSiko said:
As far as I can tell, these are not x86 cores.


But they are general-purpose computing cores with a compiler; Linux runs on it and any open source software can be recompiled.

Quote:
At the moment I run all my gfx on an 800-core chip, called my HD 4870.
Seems like all the tech journos have had their geekunits temporarily disabled by a BS Field.


Wake me up when you can run Apache and MySQL on your HD4870, or use it for packet-filtering at 40Gbps. Those are the kinds of market this chip is aimed at, not rendering pixels.
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