Adapteva Shows Off $99 Supercomputer Boards

By Tiffany Trader

April 23, 2013

Last week, Adapteva revealed the first production units of its $99 Linux “supercomputer.” Speaking at the Linux Collaboration Summit in San Francisco, California, CEO Andreas Olofsson announced the first batch of Parallella final form factor boards will be shipped to the chipmaker’s 6,300 Kickstarter supporters by this summer.

Inspired by Raspberry Pi’s success, Adapteva created Parallella to be “affordable, open, and easy to use” with the intent of democratizing parallel computing. The platform launched last fall with 5,000 backers purchasing 6,300 boards in four weeks via Kickstarter. Since Jan. 1, another 5,000 signed up to reserve their boards. Adapteva has spent the last six months working to deliver on its promise.

With less than five minutes to go in his 21-minute talk, Olofsson made the big reveal. The company had just received its very first boards, said the CEO, reaching inside his suit jacket to pull out both 16-core and a 64-core versions. The engineering team had to make a few tweaks with a soldering iron, but they were able to successfully run applications and read and write to the coprocessor.

“The hardware is looking great,” says the CEO. “Six months ago when we started this project, we said, we think we can put all this stuff on a credit card and we know it should cost a hundred dollars, but we don’t know if we can do it or not. It was six months of not knowing if we can really deliver on this project. We were confident, but not 100 percent – and just seeing it working, and coming very close on price point as well, it’s a good feeling.”

The credit card sized parallel computer consists of a dual-core ARM A9 processor, 1GB RAM, and either a 16-core or 64-core Epiphany Accelerator Chip. It’s outfitted with two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, an SD Connector and a Micro HDMI connector. The Epiphany development toolkit is included at no extra charge.

Developed by Adapteva over the last four years, the Epiphany chips employ a scalable array of RISC processors that are programmable in C/C++. They are connected together with a fast on chip network within a single shared memory architecture.

The Parallella computer runs Ubuntu Linux. The 66-core version of the Parallella computer (that’s two A9 ARM cores + 64 RISC processors) is expected to deliver 90 gigaflops (comparable to a theoretical 45GHz CPU) while consuming about 5 watts under typical workloads.

Next >> The Parallel Future

In a video on Adapteva’s website, Olofsson further details the impetus for the project: “People have been doing single-threaded performance, having one processor running one task at at time and that’s worked great, but then we hit a frequency wall, and then we hit a memory bottleneck and things just stopped. So what we see for the last year is that performance hasn’t improved as much as it should.

“We’re now stalling and if we don’t do anything about it all those great strides we made over the last 30 years where things would get better every single year, they’re going to stop, and the answer is parallel performance performance. It’s the only way to really scale in terms of energy-efficiency, performance and cost.”

“Despite being so small, we managed to tape out a 64-core, 28-nanometer chip that works, and burns 2 watts at 100 gigaflops, making us the most efficient microprocessor company in the world,” noted the CEO in his talk last week. Even with these impressive claims, it took some time for the company to attract serious interest, but micro-financing via Kickstarter and the growing demand for energy-efficient systems have altered the playing field.

“The practical vision for today is heterogenous computing,” states Olofsson. “Let’s use the tools we have available today and let’s make a system that is more efficient than one thing can do. There’s no magical all-you-can-do tool. In our toolbox, we have big CPUs, x86, and ARM. With so much legacy in them, they’re not going away anytime soon.”

But there are other options, says the CEO, including FPGA logic, GPUs, analog, and asymmetric processing, where an ARM or x86 chip handles the bulk of application processing, while hundreds or even thousands of small RISC CPUs are set to one task such as floating point co-processing. This is where Parallella, with its heterogenous and scalable parallel hardware, fits in.

The future is undeniably parallel, Olofsson asserts, and meeting the challenges of this coming paradigm will require a concerted effort. He recommends a four-fold strategy, that includes rebuilding the computer ecosystem, rewriting billions of lines of code, re-educating millions of programmers, and rewriting the education system.

According to Olofsson, the only way to achieve these goals is to have a completely open approach, and that means open software and hardware. The platform should also be accessible, which means it needs to be inexpensive and easy to program.

As for Parallella’s killer app, early customer feedback indicates it’s all over the map. There’s interest in using the platform for software-defined radio, ray tracing/rendering, image processing, robotics, gaming, photography, media servers, signal processing as well as HPC. “It’s a computer you can use anywhere,” observes Olofsson.

Adapteva has a busy year ahead. In addition to filling the initial 6,300 orders, the company is also founding the Parallella Academic Program, building a sustainable supply model, and working toward massive parallelism with Parallella-1024. “We could put a thousand cores on a chip tomorrow, if someone wanted us to,” says Olofsson.

“The really good news is we have boards working…and we’re going to ship them this summer,” concludes the CEO.

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!

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

UCSD Web-based Tool Tracking CA Wildfires Generates 1.5M Views

October 16, 2017

Tracking the wildfires raging in northern CA is an unpleasant but necessary part of guiding efforts to fight the fires and safely evacuate affected residents. One such tool – Firemap – is a web-based tool developed b Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Imperative: New Movie from HPE Makes a Compelling Case

October 13, 2017

Why is pursuing exascale computing so important? In a new video – Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Eighteen Zeros – four HPE executives, a prominent national lab HPC researcher, and HPCwire managing editor Tiffany Trader Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

OLCF’s 200 Petaflops Summit Machine Still Slated for 2018 Start-up

October 3, 2017

The Department of Energy’s planned 200 petaflops Summit computer, which is currently being installed at Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, is on track t Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Program – Some Additional Clarity

September 28, 2017

The last time we left the Department of Energy’s exascale computing program in July, things were looking very positive. Both the U.S. House and Senate had pas Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The 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

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

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