[Beowulf] Vector coprocessors

Craig Tierney ctierney at hypermall.net
Thu Mar 16 07:06:33 PST 2006

Jim Lux wrote:
> At 12:04 AM 3/16/2006, Daniel Pfenniger wrote:
>> The shipment of this accelerator card has been delayed many times. 
>> Last time
>> I asked was October 2005.   Apparently the first shipment has been 
>> made this
>> month for a Japanese supercomputer with 10^4 Opterons.   The cost is not
>> indicated, but something like above $8000.- per card would put it outside
>> commodity hardware.  I wouldn't be astonished that more performance can
>> be obtained in most applications with commodity clustering.
> There are probably applications where a dedicated card can blow the 
> doors off a collection of PCs.  At some point, the interprocessor 
> communication latency inherent in any sort of cabling between processors 
> would start to dominate.
>> If Clearspeed would consider mass production with a cost like 
>> $100.-$500.-
>> per card the market would be huge, because the card would be competing 
>> with
>> multi-core processors like the IBM-Sony Cell.
> You need "really big" volumes to get there. Retail pricing of $200 
> implies a bill of materials cost down in the sub $20 range.  Considering 
> that a run of the mill ASIC spin costs >$1M (for a small number of parts 
> produced), your volume has to be several hundred thousand (or a million) 
> before you even cover the cost of your development.
> The video card folks can do this because
> a) each successive generation of cards is derived from the past, so the 
> NRE is lower.. most of the card (and IC) is the same
> b) they have truly gargantuan volumes
> c) they have sales from existing products to provide cash to support the 
> development of version N+1.
> {I leave aside the possibility of magic elves, although with some 
> consumer products, I have no idea how they can design, produce, and sell 
> it at the price they do.  Making use of relative currency values can 
> also help, but that's in the non-technological magic elf category, as 
> far as I'm concerned.}
>> The possibly most interesting niche for the Clearspeed cards appears 
>> to me
>> accelerating proprietary applications like Matlab, Mathematica and 
>> particularly
>> Excel that run on a single PC and that can hardly be reprogrammed by 
>> their
>> users to run on a distributed cluster.
> I would say that there is more potential for a clever soul to reprogram 
> the guts of Matlab, etc., to transparently share the work across 
> multiple machines.  I think that's in the back of the mind of MS, as 
> they move toward a services environment and .NET

You mean like ISC's Star-P which provides parallel extensions for 
Matlab?  http://www.interactivesupercomputing.com/

I have not used their product, so I can't confirm it works.  I saw
a demo and it appeared that converting Matlab syntax to Star-P is
straightforward.  It falls into the 'mostly' transparent category.


> Jim
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