[Beowulf] Quasi-Non-Von-Neumann hardware in a Beowulf cluster.

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Thu Mar 10 07:23:17 PST 2005

Omri Schwarz wrote:
> The Ageia.com physics processing unit's marketing literature seems 
> so oriented to gaming that I wonder if they would open their API 
> enough for people in our  market niche could look at it and whether 
> it is suitable for putting in clusters. But if they did, what do y'all
> think? Would specialty  (albeit commodity) coprocessors hanging off a
> PCI slot be suitable for your applications?

Some applications would do very well with application specific 
processing systems.

> http://ageia.com
> While I'm bringing this up, how about things like the  MAP
> processor?
> http://www.srccomp.com/HardwareElements.htm#MAPProcessor

Or any others.

Inverting the question, if you pay 4000$US per dual CPU compute node 
(+/- a bit depending upon technology, config, supplier), what price (if 
any) would you be willing to pay for an accelerator that offered you an 
order of magnitude more performance per node, on your code, and sat in 
the PCI-e/X or HTX slots?  And also as important: how hard would you be 
willing to work/how much effort committed to program these things?  This 
makes lots of assumptions, such as such a beast existing, your code 
being mapped or mappable to it, and you being interested in this.

Part of what motivates this question are things like the Cray XD1 FPGA 
board, or PathScale's processors (unless I misunderstood their 
functions).  Other folks have CPUs on a card of various sorts, ranging 
from FPGA to DSPs.   I am basically wondering aloud what sort of demand 
for such technology might exist.  I assume the answer starts with "if 
the price is right" ...  the question is what is that price, what are 
the features/functionality, and how hard do people want to work on such 

Note:  As Jeff Layton pointed out many times, the GPUs in a number of 
machines are being used by at least one group for CFD, so you can think 
of these as a sort of dedicated attached processor.  They are not 
general purpose, but highly specialized computational pipelines.  If you 
could have a more general one, what would it look like, what would it 
do/emphasize, and how much would it cost?  I know there is no one 
answer, but I thought it would be fun to extend Omri's question.


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Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 734 786 8452
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