Texas Instruments Puts ARM-DSP Processors Into Play for HPC

By Michael Feldman

November 20, 2012

NVIDIA, Intel and AMD were not the only chip vendors unveiling new HPC accelerators last week SC12. Texas Instruments (TI) announced a set of heterogeneous processors that they believe will offer among the best performance per watt in the industry. In this case, the chipmaker glued an ARM CPU and digital signal processor (DSP) together on the same die, offering a low-power SoC with an impressive number of FLOPS.

This represents TI’s second attempt to push a wedge into the high performance computing space. The company made its initial foray into the market in October 2011 when it introduced its multicore Keystone DSPs (TMS320C66x). The primary destination of those chips was 4G cellular base stations and radio network controllers, but since floating point functionality had to be added to serve that market, TI felt the same silicon could double as HPC accelerators.

One of the problems with the standalone DSP devices being used for HPC was that the application kernels had to be offloaded from a CPU host to the DSP. That wasn’t because the DSPs couldn’t run a whole application (the DSP is closer to a manycore CPU than a GPU), but because there was no Linux OS or MPI library ports for the architecture. ARM, though, had support for both of these pieces of software, allowing developers to use a traditional driver-accelerator model.

There are actually six new SoCs being introduced by TI, two of which are ARM-only (no DSP integration) that are aimed at powering routers, switches, wireless appliances, and other networking devices. The four remaining parts are the ARM-DSP heterogenous chips. These heterogeneous chips are fully tricked-out SoCs, with an ARM Cortex A15 CPU, a Keystone DSP, a shared memory controller, an integrated fabric and an I/O interface. The fabric itself is a custom design from TI, known as TeraNet, which delivers a low latency, multi-terabit/second fabric that connects the ARM CPU, DSP and memory controller.

Of the four heterogeneous, two are high-end parts – the 66AK2H06 and 66AK2H12 – targeted to high performance computing, as well as media processing, video analytics, gaming, VDI, and radar. The 66AK2H12 4-core ARM/8-core DSP is the more powerful of the two. It offers 198 gigaflops of single precision (SP) floating point performance or 70 gigaflops in double precision. That includes the DSP floating point as well as the Neon FP unit in the ARM CPU.

Although, this ARM-DSP SoC represents only about half the FLOPS of a high-end x86 CPU, the TI chip delivers this in about one-tenth the power – 13 to 14 watts. For single precision, that works out to about 16 SP gigaflops per watt, which is about the same as last year’s stand-alone 8-core DSP chip, sans CPU. It’s also nearly as good as latest NVIDIA’s K10 Tesla part, which delivers about 20 SP gigaflops per watt.

Since the ARM CPU is 32-bit architecture, memory reach for these chips is limited. In fact, each SoC can only access up to 16 GB – not much compared to standard x86 CPU, but about twice as much as a traditional accelerator. The hetero chips, though, don’t need an external CPU to feed it, as the K10 does; the on-chip ARM serves as the host driver. This eliminates the PCIe communication overhead of a CPU hooked to an discrete accelerator.

And since the ARM and DSP units share some of the same memory, it can at least potentially simplify programming of these devices. In that sense, it’s closer to AMD’s Fusion (or APU) architecture, which glues an x86 CPU and GPU onto the same die. At this point though, the AMD offerings are being targeted for client devices, such as laptops, rather than servers.

TI is actually not making so much of a distinction in where their chips will end up. According to Arnon Friedmann, TI’s business manager for the multicore processors unit, the same SoCs targeted for servers could also be applied to embedded devices. For example, a sensor network of cameras doing video surveillance could use an ARM-DSP chip to do some local image processing; the output of which could then be shunted to a server farm of these same chips to perform deeper analytics on the pre-processed video.

“That’s a level of scalability that we think our devices bring, which others in HPC don’t offer today,” Friedmann told HPCwire. “So if you look at NVIDIA [GPUs] and Intel MIC, there really aren’t cut-down versions of these really high performance devices and they’re not quite as geared for embedded as we are.”

For HPC-type developers, TI offers both OpenMP and MPI. The chipmaker also has an alpha version of OpenCL that supports an ARM CPU that can work in conjunction with the on-chip DSP. Down the road, TI is looking to support the newly hatched OpenMP accelerator directives, which are expected to be officially codified in the standard sometime next year.

As with the other accelerators from NVIDIA, Intel and AMD vying for HPC business, the success of the TI parts will depend upon how easy they are to program and how much application performance ensues. Regarding the latter, there is already some encouraging news. According to Friedmann, an FFT kernel from an aperture radar code produced performance on par with that of a GPU, but when they moved the entire application to the chip, performance was boosted 8-fold. Friedmann says interested parties are looking to do similar ports for even larger applications.

Right now, the chipmaker is trying to bring in more HPC users to move their MPI codes over to their ARM-DSP SoCs in order to drum up interest from server makers to build hardware. In the meantime, for do-it-yourselfers, TI’s two SoCs aimed at HPC are available for sampling now. Broader availability is expected in the first quarter of 2013, with general availability of evaluation modules coming in the second quarter.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Musk’s Latest Startup Eyes Brain-Computer Links

April 21, 2017

Elon Musk, the auto and space entrepreneur and severe critic of artificial intelligence, is forming a new venture that reportedly will seek to develop an interface between the human brain and computers. Read more…

By George Leopold

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization Optimizing Life Sciences Operations and Care Delivery

As patients continually demand a better quality of care and increasingly complex workloads challenge healthcare organizations to innovate, investing in the right technologies is key to ensuring growth and success. Read more…

Nvidia P100 Shows 1.3-2.3x Speedup Over K80 GPU on Financial Apps

April 20, 2017

When it comes to the true performance of the latest silicon, every end user knows that the best processor is the one that works best for their application. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Adds Global Smarts to StorNext File System

April 20, 2017

Companies that use Quantum’s StorNext platform to store massive amounts of data this week got a glimpse of new storage capabilities that should make it easier to access their data horde from anywhere in the world. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Scaling an HPC Career in Nepal Can Be a Steep Climb

April 20, 2017

Umesh Upadhyaya works as an IT Associate at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, which supports the country’s one and only HPC facility. He is directly involved in an initiative that focuses on climate change and atmosphere modeling Read more…

By Nages Sieslack

Hyperion (IDC) Paints a Bullish Picture of HPC Future

April 20, 2017

Hyperion Research – formerly IDC’s HPC group – yesterday painted a fascinating and complicated portrait of the HPC community’s health and prospects at the HPC User Forum held in Albuquerque, NM. HPC sales are up and growing ($22 billion, all HPC segments, 2016). Read more…

By John Russell

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Hyperion (IDC) Paints a Bullish Picture of HPC Future

April 20, 2017

Hyperion Research – formerly IDC’s HPC group – yesterday painted a fascinating and complicated portrait of the HPC community’s health and prospects at the HPC User Forum held in Albuquerque, NM. HPC sales are up and growing ($22 billion, all HPC segments, 2016). Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN openlab Explores New CPU/FPGA Processing Solutions

April 14, 2017

Through a CERN openlab project known as the ‘High-Throughput Computing Collaboration,’ researchers are investigating the use of various Intel technologies in data filtering and data acquisition systems. Read more…

By Linda Barney

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Penguin Takes a Run at the Big Cloud Providers

April 12, 2017

HPC specialist Penguin Computing recently re-ran benchmarks from a study of its larger brethren and says the results show its ‘public cloud’ – Penguin on Demand (POD) – is among the leaders in cost and performance. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference phase of neural networks (NN). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This