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Adapteva Demos 100Gflops

October 8, 2012

Author: Linley Gwennap

IP vendor Adapteva has received samples of its Epiphany-IV chip, demonstrating that its unique floating-point accelerator can achieve 100Gflops in just 10mm2 of die area. The chip is a 64-core implementation of the company’s Epiphany architecture fabricated by GlobalFoundries in its leading-edge 28nm SLP process.

The Epiphany-IV chip contains 64 cores in an 8x8 grid; operating at 800MHz, it has a peak performance of 102 single-precision gigaflops (using multiply-accumulate to achieve two FP ops per cycle). The entire chip is just 10mm2 and draws 2W (max) at that speed. It provides 8Gbps of bandwidth to external memory and I/O. Because the Epiphany design is offered as IP, the customer can configure it for various performance levels. A mobile device may use a smaller 16-core configuration, which can deliver 16Gflops at 500MHz in 2.05mm2 of die area and 190mW (typical).

Having validated its 28nm design, the company’s next hurdle is to demonstrate that application software can effectively use Epiphany’s performance for real-world processing. Lacking the staff and funding to develop these applications in house, the small startup is taking an unusual outsourcing approach. Adapteva has announced a program called Parallella that creates an open computing platform similar to the popular Raspberry Pi board. The Parallella platform consists of a credit-card-size board combining its Epiphany chip with a Xilinx Zynq processor. The Zynq chip provides dual 800MHz Cortex-A9 CPUs and standard system logic.

To fund the project, Adapteva is using the Kickstarter microfunding site. This platform essentially allows preorders for the $99 development boards, which include an older 16-core Epiphany-III chip. The company will proceed with manufacturing only if it sells at least 7,500 boards in the next 30 days.

If all goes well, the open-source community will use Parallella to create new applications that take advantage of its remarkable high floating-point performance. At the same time, developers can modify and improve on Adapteva’s own libraries and tools. By next year, a robust set of applications could help convince a major mobile-processor vendor to license Epiphany. As a side effect, this effort should also improve programmers’ familiarity with OpenCL and parallel programming in general. Anyone interested in participating in the Parallella program should contact the company at www.adapteva.com.

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