RealTime IT News

Tilera's New Line to Include 100-Core CPU

Tilera, the start-up microprocessor company formed out of a military research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), today announced a new line of processors that scale to up to 100 cores.

This new family, the TILE-Gx, consists of four new processors from Tilera, all aimed at different markets based on their scalability. They come with 16, 36, 64 and 100 cores, all operating in parallel and can be configured so all cores run on one task or core groups can be partitioned and assigned to different applications. The chips aren't slated for release until next year.

The TILE-Gx family uses 40 nanometer chips, fabricated by Taiwan's TSMC. They run up to 1.50 GHz while consuming between 10 and 55 watts. They have a similar RISC design like the other Tilera processors, but also have a few advancements.

The Gx family features a new three-issue 64-bit core, meaning it executes three instructions per cycle. It has a total of 32MB of cache: 32KB L1 cache and 256KB L2 cache per core. It makes all of the individual L2 caches appear as a single L3 cache, so every core knows the contents of every other core.

The Gx family also has integrated high-performance DDR3 memory controllers that can access up to 1TB of ECC memory. The chips have their own encryption engine, called MiCA (Multistream iMesh Crypto Accelerator) that delivers up to 40Gbps encryption and 20Gbps full duplex compression processing.

It also has a packet processing accelerator called mPIPE (multicore Programmable Intelligent Packet Engine) to provide wire-speed packet classification, load balancing and buffer management.

A solution for cloud computing

Tilera is targeting cloud computing systems with the new TILE-Gx line, promising four times the performance of Intel's high-end Nehalem-EX and ten times the performance per watt.

It's an easy claim to make since neither chip is on the market yet, but Tilera is not interested in being a niche player. "We will make the statement we are a broad-based processor. We will not be placed into a niche," Bob Doud, director of marketing for Tilera told InternetNews.com.

"Within the cloud computing market is a decent segment where you just don't care what the underlying hardware is, you just want performance and performance per watt," he added.

The software is there

CPU history is littered with the corpses of failed start-ups, mostly because they didn't provide the software base. Doud said Tilera has that covered with a strong software ecosystem to support the hardware, starting with the fact that existing code will be portable to the TILE-Gx.

"People won't have to write new code. Porting is usually as easy as recompile and run," he said.

"We've all seen a lot of guys with a good idea and specialized processor chip come and go. Often times they carried baggage along with them requiring people to use special programming languages or funny libraries to use their chip. TILE-Gx runs Linux and runs C/C++. It's not binary compatible with an x86 processor, but the cloud is such a huge market that areas that don't require binary compatibility are a huge play for Tilera," he added.

One area where Tilera has experimented is Memcached, an open source caching middleware software package often used by Web 2.0 sites to serve up code and data that is frequently requested.

Tilera was able to port Memcached to its currently-shipping TilePro64 chip in a day, using Linux and open source tools, spent a few weeks optimizing it, and got seven times the performance-per-watt on a single 64-core chip as a dual socket quad-core Nehalem server.

"We've invested a huge amount into software, about equal to what we put in the hardware. We realized software was it or we'd have a boat anchor. We've got the debugger, profiler, and optimizer tools," said Doud.

So far, Tilera has 75 customers using its development kits, but will not identify those customers until they ship products. The TILE-Gx family begins shipping next year, with the 100-core processor coming last.

Will Strauss, principal analyst with Forward Concepts, said Tilera isn't a threat to Intel yet, but sure could be one. "The hardware works, there's no question in my mind. They can run the benchamarks and it looks very good. They are further along than any other massively parallel processor vendor," he told InternetNews.com.

"What they don't have is Windows on it. But it is programmable in C and they do have a Linux running on it. So it does have a capability. The real secret to success is how easy is it to program and what kinds of tools do they have to program? People aren't used to programming a large array of processors," he added.