Tilera: Server With 800 Cores May Ship Next Year

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A server with 800 processor cores could ship next year with Tilera's next-generation 100-core chips inside, a company executive said Monday.

The new Tile-GX100 are made for 64-bit computing. Each core runs at up to 1.5GHz and include 32MB of aggregate cache. The processor is based on the RISC (reduced instruction set computing) design.

The chips will start shipping in small amounts by the middle of next year.

Taiwan's Quanta Computer will "no doubt" build a 2U server using eight of Tilera's 100-core Tile-GX100 processors, said Bob Doud, director of processor strategy, during an interview at the Linley Tech Processor conference in San Jose, California.

"The 100 [core server] -- they will be probably building the server in the second half of next year, so by the end of next year I'd expect availability," Doud said

Quanta is an investor in low-power chip maker Tilera, and in June announced a low-power 512-core server using eight of Tilera's previous-generation 64-core processors.

The 800-core server will be able to offer more compute density in a 2U rack and more performance-per-watt than competitors, Doud said. The chip is targeted for use in multiple applications, including cloud computing, video, broadcast and networking.

Quanta could not immediately be reached for comment.

A number of server makers are either offering or have announced low-power servers for datacenters to meet growing cloud computing needs. Dell offers servers with Via's Nano netbook processors, and startup SeaMicro offers a server that packs in 512 low-power Intel Atom processors on motherboards the size of credit cards. Companies including Marvell and Smooth-Stone have announced plans to release server chips based on Arm processors.

In addition to the 100-core chip, Tilera has announced TileGX chips with 16, 32 and 64 cores. Initial chips from the family will start shipping later this year, Doud said.

With the new chips, Tilera is trying to establish a beachhead in the server market, which is dominated by chips based on the x86 architecture from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

The x86 architecture is popular for servers because of the high calculating power of the chips and the huge amount of software made for them. Some companies have sought other kinds of chips because x86 chips require a lot of electricity and give off a lot of heat, two headaches for datacenter operators.

"There's obviously a certain bar to get over because we're a different instruction set than x86," Doud said. But server vendors are interested in the chips because of the power efficiency and high performance.

The company has taken a different approach in its TileGX design than Intel or AMD. The chip is based on a mesh design in which cores are placed in a square with multiple points to send and receive data. Each core has a switch for faster data exchange. Chips from Intel and AMD rely on crossbars, which could potentially lead to bandwidth issues as the number of cores expands.

The distributed nature of the mesh architecture -- including the CPUs, cache and interconnects -- provides many performance advantage over x86 chips.

"In any other architectures -- 'oh we ran out of gas with the bus, we have to go to a ring, now pipeline ring, now crossbar'. The Tile architecture really scales," Doud said.

Intel has already taken a page from Tilera's chip design, and last year announced an experimental 48-core chip based on the mesh design.

The Tile-GX100 will be able to run the Linux OS, and will support applications written in Java, C or C++ languages. Common Linux applications for cloud computing, such as the Apache Web server, MySQL database and Memcached caching software already work on Tilera's chips.

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