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I2-TEAM  June 1999

I2-TEAM June 1999

Subject:

FYI : A $1000 supercomputer

From:

Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

UVM Internet2 Development Team <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 16 Jun 1999 09:34:46 -0400

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (122 lines)

sci-tech > computing > story-page


A $1000 supercomputer?

June 15, 1999
Web posted at: 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT)

by Mark Brownstein

--------------------------------------------------------
http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9906/15/supercomp.idg/
--------------------------------------------------------

(IDG) -- Within 18 months, you may be able to put the
equivalent of today's supercomputer on your desktop--for
about $1000. The CPU, long the heart of all PCs, may be
an unnecessary component in tomorrow's high-performance
computers.

The new computer will be able to process 100 billion
instructions per second, according to Kent Gilson, chief
technical officer of Star Bridge Systems. Company
representatives discussed their plans for a high-end PC
this week while announcing HAL-300GrW1, a
"hypercomputer" that is said to be 60,000 times as fast
as a 350-MHz Pentium, andmany times as fast as IBM's
supercomputer Pacific Blue. (The test used to measure
the HAL's performance was different from the measure
used for Pacific Blue, soexact comparisons are
difficult.)

The new $1000 computer will be "three orders of
magnitude different in price-performance [ratio]" from
today's PCs, Gilson claims. It will fill many of the
roles of a supercomputer, such as voice recognition,
natural language processing, and holographic displays,
he says.  What's more, Gilson says, this super-PC will
"run PC applications in emulation mode, in a manner
similar to how the DEC Alpha runs NT, but it will run it
a lot faster."

HAL comes first

Although Gilson claims the hardware for such a PC is
ready now, and that Star Bridge Systems has completed
the programming language, called Viva, the company's
initial focus is on its high-end hypercomputer line,
HAL.  The HAL-300GrW1 has a price tag of about $26
million, so it doesn't take a hypercomputer to
understand why Star Bridge Systems has chosen to direct
its attention to the HAL line first.

"We're a small company. If we came out with a PC, we
wouldn't be able to sell enough [to fund the company],
but we can sell hundreds a year of the high-end ones, so
it just makes sense," Gilson says.

In today's computing terms, the architecture Star Bridge
Systems has developed is a "massively parallel,
ultratightly coupled, asymmetrical multiprocessor." It
is based on a processor called a field programmable gate
array, Gilson says. FPGAs can be programmed on the fly,
so their configuration can be changed to perform the
particular task at hand most efficiently.

FPGAs can be changed thousands of times per second. So
in essence, an FPGA can become a specially designed CPU
tailored to perform a required task right when you need
the new processing architecture.

The traditional CPU, by contrast, has a fixed
instruction set that is burnt into silicon.  Programming
instructions are written to work with the instruction
set, and are limited by the capabilities built into it.

Suitcase supercomputer

Star Bridge Systems had sold one HAL computer upon the
line's announcement. For one sales pitch, Gilson showed
off what he calls a "HAL Junior"--a model that fits into
a suitcase but delivers 640 billion instructions per
second.

The company has mapped out a series of hypercomputer
systems, ranging in performance from the HAL-10GrW1,
capable of conducting 10 billion floating-point
operations per second, to a HAL-100TrW1, which conducts
100 trillion floating point operations per second. The
company is also selling signal-processing products
(switches and routers)  based on its HAL technology.
These network products are designed for scientific
supercomputing and extremely high-demand
telecommunications.

Meanwhile, Star Bridge Systems representatives are
speaking with major companies that have expressed
interest in HAL, and that undoubtedly wonder whether the
system can deliver the performance promised. Initial
targets are those currently using supercomputers, and
those who might see this as a higher-performance,
lower-cost supercomputer.

"Eventually, reconfigurable computing [a term coined by
Gilson, referring to the underlying technology behind
the hypercomputer] will permeate all information
systems, just because it's faster, cheaper, and better,"
Gilson predicts.


Links:

Starbridge Systems
-> http://www.starbridgesystems.com/home/mainpage.htm

        -> Technology
                -> Description of SBS Technology
                -> Viva Software
                -> Product Comarison
                -> Breakthroughs
                -> Plugins

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