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The DRC module plugs directly into a Socket 940 AMD Opteron motherboard
DRC has announced its newest FPGA that drops into AMD's Socket 940

The Register has a fairly in depth look at one start-up's attempt to capitalize on AMD's HyperTransport interface -- a reprogrammable coprocessor that can drop into any Socket 940 socket.  The company, DRC, built its programmable coprocessor on Xilinx Virtex4 field programmable gate array integrated circuits. 

For specialized industries, a dynamic coprocessor is exactly what the doctor ordered; low overhead for extremely specific tasks such as vector math or collision detection.  Companies already pay thousands to millions of dollars to have such overly specific algorithms ported to custom FPGA processors, but the kicker for DRC is that the chip can be integrated into a multi-slot Opteron server running the correct software.

Each series of coprocessors unveiled by the company uses the standard HyperTransport (HT) interface to communicate with the main processor.  The low end coprocessor, the DRC100-L60ES, uses a 200MHz by 8-bit HT link.  DRC's two high end modules, the DRC100-L60 and the DRC110-L160 both use a 400MHz by 16-bit interface instead.  DRC coprocessors range in size from 50,000 to 140,000 programmable gates and all three can utilize 6.4GBps between the Xilinx FPGA and the DDR400 memory bank.

Each DRC module starts at about $4,500.  Competing proprietary systems from SGI and IBM easily cost four times that and generally require additional proprietary hardware and contracts to support.


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RE: Calc types
By Operandi on 4/24/2006 1:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
What about physics and AI processing for gaming? That seems like a at least possible application.


RE: Calc types
By saratoga on 4/24/2006 1:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
Not really. These are FPGAs, they're designed for custom applications. This means they're cheaper if you're the only one doing this sort of work. If theres actually a market for something (game accelerators), this is the last thing you want since FPGAs are amazing expensive (per chip) and much, much slower then a conventional part.

The reason they're used is that you can buy one and design your own processor to solve YOUR specific problem. I know labs that use FPGA based custom processors for things like real time processing of sensor data coming in a hundreds to thousands of MB per second that need all of that data crunched in a very specific in just a few milliseconds. These are the people who will want these chips. I doubt most other people will be interested, at least those without a masters in Comp Engineering a lot of Verilog/VHDL programming experience.


RE: Calc types
By peternelson on 4/24/2006 4:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
As I'm sure you are aware, FPGAs are ONLY "much slower" in CLOCK SPEED (compared to Pentium, Opteron etc). However, they have the benefit of MASSIVE PARALLELISM (millions of gates), and amazing internal memory bandwidth, plus customisable operations that are not in the instruction set of x86 processors. Therefore in many technical applications, FPGAs can deliver excellent acceleration, despite the seemingly low clocks.


RE: Calc types
By saratoga on 4/25/2006 8:56:49 PM , Rating: 2
"As I'm sure you are aware, FPGAs are ONLY "much slower" in CLOCK SPEED (compared to Pentium, Opteron etc)."

In what other way can a transistor be slower?

"However, they have the benefit of MASSIVE PARALLELISM (millions of gates), and amazing internal memory bandwidth,"

You're not making sense. FPGAs have far fewer transistors then conventional fabbed chips. Given the same verilog code, the FPGA will always be an order of magnitude slower then what a fab would give you.

The advtange is reprogrammablity and lower setup costs. You can fix your mistakes, and be up and running again in hours, not months if you find a bug. For that you lose speed.

" plus customisable operations that are not in the instruction set of x86 processors."

What the heck are you talking about? FPGAs are a way you can implement processors, including x86 ones, not a rivial to x86.

" Therefore in many technical applications, FPGAs can deliver excellent acceleration, despite the seemingly low clocks."

Ok, but that has nothing to do with whatever you're talking about. The clock speed is just the cost you pay for flexibility.


RE: Calc types
By Wwhat on 4/25/2006 9:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
So why must this be so prohibitively expensive? can we not now in 2006 make FPGAs for a more reasonable price, perhaps it would need some redesign but would it not create its own market once you did?
After all the whole FLASHRAM market andsoforth is moving along at a good pace and prices drop, surely by now we should be able to make this for more retail range prices too.
Imagine selling servers with one onboard for the cost of a normal server, you'd rule the market, and what if you could put it on normal systems, I think soon the linuxcommunity for instance would find many uses for it, and students could learn how to handle the designing for it etc.
It would put the excitemnt and experimentation from the past back in the hands of enthusiast and glasses wearing geeks :}


RE: Calc types
By Zoomer on 4/25/2006 11:23:02 AM , Rating: 2
Volume.


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