Tilera, Quanta Collaborate On Dense Servers For Cloud, Services Apps

Processor startup Tilera and Quanta Computer have collaborated to build what they bill as the world's highest compute density server, a unit which fits up to 10,000 processor cores on a standard rack and is aimed at cloud computing and service providers.

Tilera, which was founded in 2004 as a fabless semiconductor maker, unveiled its first product, a 16-core processor in 2007, and followed that up last year with its GX family of 16-core to 100-core processors, said Troy Bailey, vice president of marketing for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Quanta, which along with Broadcom is a strategic investor in Tilera, this week unveiled the S2Q server.

The S2Q fits eight processor nodes into a 2U rack-mount enclosure. Each node contains a 64-core TilePro64 processor, giving 512 cores per 2U of space. The nodes also include 176 Gbits per second of I/O bandwidth, up to 64 DIMM memory slots, and up to 24 2.5-inch hot-plug SAS, SATA, or solid-state drives.

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Each node consumes between 35 Watts and 50 watts of power, which means that a full rack of S2Q nodes with up to 10,000 cores consumes about 8 KW of power.

The company's Tile family of processors were designed purely for performance, and have few of the more advanced features of AMD and Intel processors, Bailey said.

"Our main difference is in how we designed the cores and connect them together," he said. "A lot of companies that implement multi-core technology are seeing a decline in incremental performance, because they get a lot of bottlenecks when communicating with other devices."

Tilera, on the other hand, uses a mesh configuration under which the cores are arranged in an eight-by-eight grid, which means the bus lines between the cores are very short and switched at the processor's clock frequency, Bailey said.

"We can go to 1,000 cores without running into scalability issues," he said.

Tilera's processors have a different architecture from the industry-standard x86 processors from Intel and AMD. However, Bailey said, they can be programmed using C and C++ using standard compilers, although applications written for the Tile processors are not binary-compatible with applications for other processors.

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"In networking and multimedia, this is not an issue," Bailey said. "Those applications are all special purpose apps anyway. And in the data center, companies often create their own software."

The key driver for Tilera and Quanta is the power consumption and heating required as data centers implement cloud computing, platform-as-a-service, and software-as-a-service with the mainframe-type reliability customers expect, Bailey said.

In cloud computing, software developers write applications with C and C++, said Ehab Bishara, director of marketing for Tilera's cloud computing products.

"Many cloud developers are already writing directly to our architecture," Bishara said. "We make sure we support standard operating systems, standard programming tools like Java, and standard compiling tools."

Tilera already has over 50 design wins with its processors. Several applications have already been ported to the TilePro64 processors, including the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack, he said.

Looking forward, the company plans to unveil the TileGX version of its processor featuring 40-nanometer technology. The TileGX is slated to start with a 36-core processor by year-end, with a 100-core version expected by mid-2011, Bailey said. It will be followed by the Stratton processors, with 28-nanometer technology and up to 200 cores per processor, he said.

The S2Q server will start shipping in September in limited quantities.

Tilera in March closed its Series C funding round of $25 million, including $10 million from Quanta, Bailey said.

The S2Q is the second ultra-dense server introduced this month.

Seattle-based SeaMicro last week Monday unveiled a new server architecture that puts up to 512 Intel Atom processors in a 10U rack mount space in a move to slash data center power and space requirements by up to 75 percent.