[Beowulf] Vector coprocessors AND CILK

Vincent Diepeveen diep at xs4all.nl
Wed Mar 22 11:16:24 PST 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim Lux" <James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov>
To: "Vincent Diepeveen" <diep at xs4all.nl>; <daniel.pfenniger at obs.unige.ch>
Cc: <beowulf at beowulf.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 6:00 AM
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Vector coprocessors AND CILK

> At 07:18 PM 3/21/2006, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:
>>----- Original Message ----- From: "Daniel Pfenniger" 
>><daniel.pfenniger at obs.unige.ch>
>>To: "Jim Lux" <James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov>
>>Cc: <beowulf at beowulf.org>
>>Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 6:32 PM
>>Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Vector coprocessors
>>If you produce such cards in low quantity you lose roughly 100 dollar to 
>>the pci card to
>>royalties basically then add chip production price. 2 big chips, well i do 
>>not know what price
>>they are. Sound expensive to me. I talked about 1 big chip for some other 
>>That chip had a price, when mass produced, of 50 dollar a chip.
> If it's a full custom chip, figure a "first chip" cost of $2M. (layout, a 
> couple spins, etc., but assuming you know basically what the chip is 
> supposed to do and how to do it)

Most projects are indeed having a total cost of around $1M for such chips,
including programming and design and package design for 

> I work with a fair number of very low volume but fairly complex chips 
> (intended for space applications, but not in Class S quality grade) and 
> they all seem to run about $5K to $10K each, which must be a sort of basic

That must be something not sold in a shop then, but something intended to
cream off the university world. Those universities waste money by the 
so for them $10k is affordable handsdown.

However for products and cards that you want to sell to ordinary people who
simply want a bit better card, a price of $10k is too much.

> price for them to build small runs where there's not a huge NRE.  Things 
> like MOSIS (http://www.mosis.org/) (or Atmel's equivalent, the name of 
> which I forget) can be less expensive, but probably not for something of 
> this scale.  $5K probably covers the cost of running the wafer, dicing, 
> testing, and putting it in a package, in quantities of <100.
> So, to get the $50/chip cost, you need an order of 40,000-50,000 pieces.

No no. 1000-5000.

For 20000+ you can get the entire product including packaging down to way 

This card has however 2 chips, not 1. That's a huge difference, additionally 
it clocks perhaps
"only" at 250Mhz, but it might be more complex technology than the chip we 
wanted to produce.

We just wanted a single giant chip, also at a comparable, though bit higher 
Mhz range. Mhz range is however
less important than product price.

Of course for this product if it would be a success, there would be printed 
more of them, which probably
reduced the price of the manufacturers offering.

Succesful products, such as chesscomputers, when they do well and are 
succesful, you sell around 100000 of them.

That's only for the *succesful* products.

Usually such numbers are only for low priced items, like 99.95 euro 

For small amount of products it was not possible to get production price 
under $150 however (excluding packaging and
delivery, just card+chip), which meant simply the entire product was not 
possible to produce as the chip wouldn't carry any RAM which meant a PC 
would outperform it and in general a product sells for 4x more. So that 
would mean a bruto price of 600 dollar.
Or a netto price for the customer (add roughly 20% VAT for europe at 
products) == 600 euro.

Now of course dollar will go down bigtime, which means effectively the sales 
price could perhaps become 499 euro,
which is a very competative price.

Yet you'll have to have RAM on the card then to compete.

It's easy to sell a lot of products if a product outperforms all software 
that is out there. Asking 1000-1500 euro a product is possible in that case, 
if it doesn't, then a price of 500-1000.

So for example if i put my chessprogram in hardware, that's nearly 
impossible, as it's too big (what i write in a few hundreds of lines of C 
code in hardware goes default even very well optimized to like 50000 
transistors, and the code is 2.2MB in total)
and software is more efficient than hardware, because in software you can 
use all kind of caches which in hardware are either
too slow to access, or too expensive to make.

Another alternative is a real chesscomputer from wood with real pieces and 
inside it a chip, that's of course interesting.
Alternative is a pci card with a single chip. That's cheaper. But it's 150 
euro, 150 dollar without salestax.

The problem is, that software at a k8 just completely outperforms such a 
hardware chip.

>>So bare production price of this card i estimate at around 250 dollar. You 
>>don't want to lose bigtime
>>on such a card of course.
>>That means an importer price of 500 and a consumer price is a minimum of 
>>1000 dollar.
> When I was working for a developer of retail products, we'd figure retail 
> selling price is 10x material cost.  For products with high integration 
> (i.e. an ASIC) you'd probably go down to 5x.
>>Now you skip the importer of course with such types of cards.
>>According to my economy book then a company can then follow 2 approaches. 
>>You can try to
>>flood the market and sell 50 million of them, which means that the card 
>>will be priced 1000 dollar.
> Don't need to sell that many.. a hundred thousand would probably do <grin>

A good chesscomputer gets 100k handsdown.

True, in past they sold even more, and it's dissappearing slowly, as no one 
wants to invest in such

Please note that there never was any chipproducer involved. Usually they put 
single chips in the
chesscomputers of like 30Mhz and a SH7000 chip or so.

That's real real cheap. That's why they do not sell anymore of course. PC 
software and hardware has won
from the own designs.

>>If you're serious and you want to buy 200 of their cards, then you're a 
>>big customer.
>>Propose them a secret deal in this sense that you don't publicly reveal 
>>the price paid,
>>and you sign for it that first 3 years you won't resell their cards nor 
>>lend them nor hire them
>>to other persons. Under that condition you offer $200k for 200 cards.

> But they're not going to even be able to cover a fraction of the 
> development cost for that.  But, perhaps, if they are thinking about 
> "buying market share" with OPM (other people's money). It's been done, 
> more than once.

If you want to earn back your development costs with 1 client,
then you better stop producing such a product.

Only money wasting governments want to pay that much.


> Jim

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