A further update on Tilera’s product launches as the old Interop tradeshow for network switch and infrastructure vendors is held in Las Vegas. They have tweaked the chip packaging of their cpus and now are going to market different cpus to different industries. This family of Tilera chips is called the 8000 series and will be followed by a next generation of 3000 and 5000 series chips. Projections are by the time the Tilera 3000 series is released the density of the chips will be sufficient to pack upwards of 20,000 cpu cores of Tilera chips in a single 42 unit tall, 19 inch wide server rack. with a future revision possibly doubling that number of cores to 40,000. That road map is very agressive but promising and shows that there is lots of scaling possible with the Tilera product over time. Hopefully these plans will lead to some big customers signing up to use Tilera in shipping product in the immediate and near future.
What I’m most interested in knowing is how does the Qanta server currently shipping that uses the Tilera cpu benchmark compared to an Intel Atom based or ARM based server on a generic webserver benchmark. While white papers and press releases have made regular appearances on the technolog weblogs, very few have attempted to get sample product and run it through the paces. I suspect, and cannot confirm that anyone who is a potential customer are given Non-disclosure Agreements and shipping samples to test in their data centers before making any big purchases. I also suspect that as is often the case the applications for these low power massively parallel dense servers is very narrow. Not unlike that for a super computer. IBM‘s Cell Processor that powers the Blue Gene super computers is essentially a PowerPC architecture with some extra optimizations and streamlining to make it run very specific workloads and algorithms faster. In a super computing environment you really need to tune your software to get the most out of the huge up front investment in the ‘iron’ that you got from the manufacturer. There’s not a lot of value add available in that scientific and super computing environment. You more or less roll your own solution, or beg, borrow or steal it from a colleague at another institution using the same architecture as you. So the Quanta S2Q server using the Tilera chip is similarly likely to be a one off or niche product, but a very valuable one to those who purchase it. Tilera will need a software partner to really pump up the volumes of shipping product if they expect a wider market for their chips.
But using a Tilera processor in a network switch or a ‘security’ device or some other inspection engine might prove very lucrative. I’m thinking of your typical warrantless wire-tapping application like the NSA‘s attempt to scoop up and analyze all the internet traffic at large carriers around the U.S. Analyzing data traffic in real time prevents folks like NSA from capturing and having to move around large volumes of useless data in order to have it analyzed at a central location. Instead localized computing nodes can do the initial inspection in realtime keying on phrases, words, numbers, etc. which then trigger the capturing process and send the tagged data back to NSA for further analysis. Doing that in parallel with a 100 core CPU would be very advantageous in that a much smaller footprint would be required in the secret closets NSA maintains at those big data carriers operations centers. Smaller racks, less power makes for a much less obvious presence in the data center.