[Beowulf] Vector coprocessors

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Mar 16 11:00:22 PST 2006

At 09:54 AM 3/16/2006, Joe Landman wrote:

>Daniel Pfenniger wrote:
>>>You need "really big" volumes to get there.
>>Yes, but it does not seem to me unreasonable to put such a card in
>>millions of PC's if the average applications run a bit faster and the
>>cost increase stays below the PC cost.  After all
>>the 8087 math coprocessor of the i386 era did just that.
>I agree that it makes sense to put such a card into millions of PCs. Not 
>at $8000/card.  The issue is that the C600 costs quite a bit itself as it 
>is not being produced in volumes that can drive enough economies of scale 
>(yet).  So the basic part will be a few k$.  The card cost will be 
>(relatively speaking) low.
>I think (WAG here) that Clearspeed wants people to design a socket onto 
>motherboards for them.  Lowers the costs all around.

But that greatly increases the cost of the motherboards, and mobo 
manufacturing is a very price sensitive business.  every square cm of board 
costs a bunch, all the way through the whole supply chain (mfr, storage, 
shipping, etc.)

Interesting that there was HUGE economic pressure to integrate the FPU onto 
the chip after the 386/387 era. And the whole reason the x87 wasn't 
integrated wasn't because of marketing, but because of die size 
limitations.  With the 486, the dies got big enough to integrate, and 
they've never looked back.  I haven't even seen any mass-market 
coprocessors of that type (i.e. closely coupled to the CPU) since 
then.  The coprocessors have tended towards performing some specific 
function (e.g. graphics, or PCI bridge with integrated peripherals) and 
have been fairly loosely coupled.

>>>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
>>Lots of people have thought about that for a long time, including
>>Cleve Moeller.   The potential clever soul should be well above
>>average, and considering MS products, well above MS average programmer.

At least there's lots of MS programmers to draw from, so on a statistical 
basis, you'd expect one to pop up.


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