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Tilera Aims To Kick Intel off the Cloud

There hasn’t been a really good server fight since Intel freaked out over the AMD Opteron

There hasn’t been a really good server fight since Intel freaked out over the AMD Opteron and that was way too long ago.

Tilera, the many-core general-purpose chip start-up, however, is promising some gladiatorial entertainment for those into blood sports.

It thinks it can kick Intel in the shorts and out of the cloud business with chips that with a little recompiling run the same Linux software as Intel but deliver 10x the performance-per-watt of an Intel Sandy Bridge.

Tilera’s director of cloud computing products and marketing Ihab Bishara says chip makers (read Intel) can’t get away with paltry 15%-20% improvements. They have to make orders-of-magnitude jumps.

Tilera figures it’s two years ahead of any wannabe ARM servers and a year ahead of Intel, which might be able to pull something together with its hydra-headed Larrabee chip.

It’s pointing the thing at the Web 2.0 server market that’s growing at the rate of 20% CAGR versus the enterprise server’s measly 9%.

For the last two years Tilera has been in a huddle with what it says are “the world’s leading cloud companies,” names it dare not speak, but which obviously have to be, oh, Facebook, Google and Amazon.

And they have been “co-developing,” no less, the new TILE-Gx 3000 processor family that Tilera unveiled Tuesday.

It’s described as the “ultimate cloud computing processor” and is supposed give the cloud boys exactly what they want, slashing all-important power consumption and footprint 80%.

Each of the Gx 3000’s cores – and the dingus will be available with 36, 64 and 100 cores – consume less than 0.5 watts at 1.5GHz. The widgets are optimized for cloud data centers and are supposed to provide an estimated

50% reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO).

Aside from power consumption, the single biggest issue for cloud companies, Tilera is also meeting their 64-bit and error correction demands so it can hit the sweet spot of high performance and low power.

It says its cloud customers have already placed orders although the first version of the part, the 36-core, won’t sample until the end of July, followed by the 64-core and the company’s first 100-core in Q1 next year.

Tilera says the device is targeting scale-out data centers running throughput- oriented applications including:

  • Web applications that need high-throughput processing and low latency.
  • Database applications like NoSQL and in-memory databases that require high-memory throughput and storage.
  • Data mining applications like Hadoop that rely on high disk throughput and data processing.
  • And video transcoding that necessitates throughput processing.

The 36-core TILEGx-3036 is supposed to replace single-socket servers; the 64-core 3064 will replace dual-socket servers; and the 100-core 3100 will replace up to quad-socket servers.

They’re all built on Taiwan Semiconductor’s 40nm process. Each core features a three-issue, 64-bit ALU with an advanced virtual memory system. And each core includes 32 kilobytes (kB) of L1 I-cache, 32kB of L1 D- cache and 256kB L2 cache, with up to 32MB of L3 coherent cache across the device.

Processor utilization is optimized using advanced memory stripping that utilizes up to four integrated 72-bit DDR3 memory controllers supporting up to 1TB total capacity. The Gx 3000 family integrates smart NIC hardware for preprocessing, load balancing and buffer management of incoming traffic.

The widgets support a standard software stack like a Centos-compatible 2.6.36 Linux that supports 2,000-odd standard RPM packages; standard tools like Gcc, g++, gdb, gprof, oprofile, perf event, mudflap and eclipse; standard languages like ANSI C/C++, Java, PHP, Perl and Python; programming frameworks like Erlang, TBB and open MP; and standard management protocols like IPMI 2.0, SNMP, Syslog, Telnet, SSH, TFTP, FTP and SCP.

Tilera derived the Gx 3000 series by stripping out stuff like the networking I/O in the networking-oriented Gx 8000 architecture on which the processors are based.

Tilera’s 3000 samples will be available in the company’s own boxes. Third-party boxes – cloud people reportedly prefer cost-conscious ODM gear – should be available in the fall with production servers by the end of the year. Last time through the production boxes came from Quanta.

Tilera expects to be cash flow positive by the end of the year and wants to IPO by the end of next year, sooner than it said a couple of months ago. It recently raised a $45 million round. Total investment comes to $109 million including strategic investments from Cisco and Samsung.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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