Tilera, Quanta Unveil 512-Core Server for Cloud Computing

Two weeks after SeaMicro announced a system that houses up to 512 Intel Atom processing cores, fellow start up Tilera and ODM Quanta are launching their own 512-core offering based on Tilera's 64-core Pro64 chip. Tilera also announced plans to double the core count every two years starting with a 100-core processor in 2011 and a 200-core chip in 2013.

Chip maker Tilera, which caught the attention of many in the industry last year when it introduced its 36- and 64-core chips, is now beginning to get some traction among systems makers.

Tilera officials announced June 22 that Quanta Computer, an ODM (original design manufacturer) who sells servers to other vendors, is rolling out a system that can put 512 computing cores into a single rack.

At the same time, the officials are outlining a roadmap that will include doubling the number of cores in a chip every two years. Tilera is on pace to release a processor with 100 cores next year, and is aiming for a 200-core chip for 2013.

Tilera is aiming to meet the demand from businesses deploying cloud computing or Web-based IT infrastructures, communications companies and HPC (high-performance computing) systems vendors, who all are trying to find ways of increasing the performance of their massive server farms while driving down power, cooling and floor space costs.

"It's creating pretty much of a pinch," Troy Bailey, vice president of marketing at Tilera, said in an interview, referring to the problems facing companies running lots of servers. "I think it's pretty clear that getting IT the power [for their IT infrastructure], cooling it and getting the floor space are important."

Industry analysts have called the move to cloud computing a transformative time for the industry, and that such times offer opportunities for new companies to make their mark.

Tilera is one of several IT startups looking to fill what they see as a gap in offerings from traditional x86 chip and systems makers, including Intel, who they say have built their products for traditional data center workloads. Officials from Tilera and SeaMicro, which on June 14 unveiled a server that can scale to 512 Atom cores from Intel in a 10U (17.5-inch) system, have said argued that cloud computing workloads tend to be smaller-but more numerous-than those in traditional data centers.

Their goal is to give OEMs and businesses an alternative to traditional x86-based products that offer the same performance at a fraction of the cost.

Bailey said what Tilera and Quanta, an investor in Tilera, are doing is similar to SeaMicro's efforts, though he pointed out that SeaMicro is putting 512 cores into a 10U system. Quanta is putting 512 cores into a 2U (3.5-inch) system. He also said some components that SeaMicro is putting outside of the chip, such as the memory controllers and network I/O, are on the chip in Tilera's design.

A key to Tilera's system is its iMesh technology, which links the cores and enables the high degree of parallel processing that's becoming more commonplace on the Internet.

Quanta's server, codenamed S2Q offers eight nodes that each contain Tilera's Pro64 processor, providing 512 cores that can run 1.3 trillion operations per second. The S2Q systems enable up to 10,000 cores to be put into an 8 kilowatt rack.

Each system consumes 35 to 50 watts of energy at the most, and use shared fans and power supplies to reduce space and power costs.

Tilera officials say that 12 2U Quanta servers offer the same performance as 100 two-socket Intel-based systems, with an 80 percent reduction in operating expenses.

The S2Q will be available on a limited basis in September, and generally available in the fourth quarter.

Bailey said Tilera has close to 50 design wins to date, and OEMs are showing interest. SGI earlier in June announced a highly dense hybrid computing platform that leverages Tilera technology.

Tilera officials say they are on track to double the number of cores on their processor every two years, starting with the Tile-Gx family in 2011, which will have 100 cores and be built on a 4-nanometer manufacturing process. Two years later, the 28-nm "Stratton" processor will arrive with 200 cores, they said.

It also will mean the doubling of the number of cores that can be fit into a rack, from 10,000 currently to 20,000 in 2011 to 40,000 with Stratton in 2013.