Re: Hardware trends

From: Dani Eder (
Date: Tue Jul 03 2001 - 10:31:22 MDT

There are two trends that are leading to the Blue
Gene type architecture. The first is the speed
imbalance between the CPU and memory chips, which
is getting to be 10:1 for the highest performance
CPUs. Blue Gene type chips incorporate memory
and CPU core on the same chip.

If you look at current CPU chips, a good portion of
the chip is already devoted to memory in the form of
the L1 and L2 caches. So putting more of the main
memory on the chip is an extension of this trend.

The other component that is separate on today's chips
is the controller that talks between the CPU and
memory, and other peripherals.

By merging the contoller onto the CPU chip, you now
have a System-on-chip (SOC), as the usual buzzword.

The other trend is to put more execution units onto
a single chip. Currently you get 2-3 Floating Point
Units per chip. The Blue Gene project aims to put
32 complete CPU cores on one chip. These will be
simplified cores (probably 1 FPU, and without the
boatload of specialized instructions current chips

You still have a cluster of computers, but the
clustering is on the chip and board level, rather
than the box level of a Beowolf Cluster.

What makes a Beowolf Cluster cheap is that they
use cheap commodity parts. If an SOC chip becomes
a commodity part (i.e. used for home PCs), then
you can continue to make cheap clusters of them.
Otherwise, a Blue Gene chip, which is targeted at
1 GHz x 32 cores, may cost $2000 per chip because
it is not a high volume item. Meanwhile the
high volume Intel and AMD chips of 2004 may be
running at 5 GHz x 4 FPUs and only cost $200, which
will still be a cost winner.


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