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Startup Wants To Put 64-Cores In Your Smartphone 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the bejewel-faster dept.
angry tapir writes "Startup chip design company Adapteva has announced the multicore Epiphany processor, which is designed to accelerate applications in servers and low-power devices such as smartphones and tablets. The RISC-based processor is scalable to thousands of cores on a single chip, and can sit alongside CPUs to provide real-time execution of diverse applications. Epiphany chips are currently scalable up to 64 cores in smartphones and up to 4,000 cores in servers. The processor can accelerate tasks like hand gesture recognition, face matching or face tracking, but is not designed to be a full-fledged CPU."
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Startup Wants To Put 64-Cores In Your Smartphone

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  • I wonder what good it would do them if they stick their toaster oven into my Nokia 6303c?

    • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:38PM (#36029926) Journal

      I wonder what good it would do them if they stick their toaster oven into my Nokia 6303c?

      You have 64 cores. That's gonna run much hotter than a toaster oven....though probably not for long enough to make toast.

      • Re:a toaster oven (Score:4, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:45PM (#36029986)
        Nah, the total number of transistors in those 64 cores is probably a small fraction of the transistors in one modern CPU - more like stream processing units in a GPU (a GPU has several hundred).

        Modern CPUs use huge numbers of transistors for small increases in speed, so there's no question such a chip would be much more efficient for tasks that fit it - again, like GPUs.

        • Totally different architecture.

          • by bondsbw (888959)

            Architecture doesn't really matter. It only matters how many transistors and electrical components are in use at once. Considering the efficiency of modern CPUs in pipelining and branch prediction (and probably even better stuff since the last time I've heavily studied CPU architecture), I'd venture to guess that the number of transistors active at any moment is reasonably close to the number of transistors available.

            • This article [eetimes.com] implies that the 16 core adapteva system on a chip has 40 million transistors-- slightly less than an Atom.

              The RV870 has 2.2 billion transistors, not all of which are used for the chip's 1600 stream processors.

      • by drewm1980 (902779)

        They are targeting 1 Watt mobile applications to start with. For reference, a high-end gpu these days is ballpark 500W.

        • Like a Quadro 6000 (204W) or a GTX 580 at (244W)

            Even the bleeding edge GTX590 is under 400W...

          • by Molt (116343)
            The 5xx series has been moderately well-behaved on the power-usage, but other fairly recent generations have not been so kind. The GTX480 could pull 450W and the GTX295 would happily use 487W (Stats from Tom's Hardware [tomshardware.com]), and from that I'd say that a ballpark of 500W is fair enough, after all the 6xx series could well be very different from the 5xx series and so again have increased power usage.
      • Some multicore CPUs can shut down unused cores to save power. I imagine that if such technology is not thoroughly encumbered by patents, the Epiphany might be able to do the same thing.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I wonder what good it would do them if they stick their toaster oven into my Nokia 6303c?

      Speaking of Nokia, in the near future, they may need to! Coding in C# won't necessary result in low power footprint apps, I imagine.

      • What do you mean? My deep cycle lead acid battery keeps my low powered C# mobile apps running for hours! It only needs a recharge once or twice a day.

  • That's a lot of cores for a smart phone.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:39PM (#36029932)
      Yeah. With that many cores, you could have TWO websites that use Flash open at the same time!
      • Bullshit! Will never happen. Flash calculates Pi to infinity. Find that subroutine, and we will have solved the Flash performance problem.

    • Only question is, how much can you burden each core?

      After all, you could have a bajillion cores in a chip, but if each core in it can only handle one-bajillionth the load of a single-core x86 or PPC chip, then where's the advantage?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    risc is gonna change everything...

  • by drb226 (1938360) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:38PM (#36029922)
    At some point you do need things to be performed in sequence. Performing a bajillion parallel operations can only get you so far. Can the simple tasks required of a smartphone (e.g. AngryBirds) really benefit from that many cores?
    • Re:Um...why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:44PM (#36029976)

      Because marketing thinks that if they have N cores it will sell better than a phone with only N-1 cores. And they're probably right.

      • Hey, it works with digital cameras and megapixels. Worked with processors and mega/giga hertz for a loooong time.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Megapixel levels in digital cameras levelled out a few years back. Instead the focus shifted to features and image processing. DSLRs and Micro 4/3 cameras are mostly hovering around the 12MP level. There just isn't much to be gained from going above that because the limiting factor is the size of the lens and camera body.

      • "Apple is proud to announce the iPhone 5. With a 64 core processor. That's 32 times any available phone on the market. And that means you can multitask like never before. At 32 times the speed."

        I can just see it now...God save us. From the consumers.

        And before any fanboi gets riled up, any phone company could do it. I just see Apple doing this first.

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          Naa, Apple would do it second, the common thread of everything Apple has been take a good idea, and make it shiny.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        that works well for lg right now.

        oh wait...

    • by Threni (635302)

      It might mean that the Android version runs at more than 20 frames per second.... you know, like games used to on 7mhz, 512k Amigas 25 years ago.

      • by eln (21727)
        Sure, it will play at 64 frames per second. The trick is, it will display all 64 of those frames simultaneously, for a duration of one second. Playability may be affected.
    • by dhavleak (912889)

      People are in such a hurry to add cores, nobody's even stopping to think about this question.

      Smartphone workloads are inherently serial. Even two cores can be overkill for a smartphone -- with one core underutilized even when the device is being actively used, and one core being powered down entirely while the other one's clock is scaled down, when the device is in your pocket. Why not just save the die space, have just one core, and optimize the heck out of that scenario?

      • Video processing can (depending on what you're doing) be very parallel. So can some kinds of data compression. The real question is gonna be in terms of power. Are 64 mostly-idle cores going to consume less power than one or two fully loaded cores multiplexing those same tasks.
        • by dhavleak (912889)
          That's true about video processing, but ideally any processor you use in a smartphone will already have fixed function encode/decode units for whatever audio and video you throw at it (*cough* webm notwithstanding *cough*)
        • by dhavleak (912889)
          Oh -- and regarding idle power consumption -- no they won't consume less power, but that isn't even the point. When will you even have all 64 cores active? If you have cores that you never need, well, why have them at all? Why not have a single core or 2 cores that's buttloads faster?
      • by LurkerXXX (667952)

        You mean YOUR smartphone workloads are inherently serial. I'm streaming Pandora, while playing a video game, while receiving notifications that new email is arriving, new SMS messages coming in, while waiting on the batch files to finish running in my ssh session to my server at work.

        • by dhavleak (912889)
          Receiving notifications for email, and receiving SMS messages don't require active threads -- there shouldn't be cores dedicated to those tasks even if you do have a 64-core CPU. The batch files, if I understand correctly, are running on your server at work. The Pandora stream's audio decode should be handled by a dedicated auio decode unit. So all you have going is data transfer over the network. I think old single core 486s could handle that -- as can today's single core or dual core snapdragons / tegras
          • by LurkerXXX (667952)

            You kind of missed playing a game. Need For Speed, Hawk, etc, tend to need a bit of CPU. I'd like a core for that itself while all the other stuff is handled by another core.

            • by dhavleak (912889)

              Not really -- on an old 486 or pentium (single core obviously) did you never have say outlook running in the background, while playing need for speed? At the most, you might need 2 cores to ensure jitter-free gaming during an event such as receiving a new email (etc). Beyond that, the game developers care a hell of a lot more about your SOC a good GPU.

              Don't get me wrong -- i'm all for crazy fast processors -- it's just that the importance of processor speed (and cores in this case) is often completely misun

              • by dhavleak (912889)

                Beyond that, the game developers care a hell of a lot more about your SOC a good GPU

                doh! care a hell of a lot more about your SOC *having* a good GPU

                • by Coren22 (1625475)

                  Who needs audio decode processors outside the CPU when you have 64 cores? Who needs an external GPU when you can move it into the processor?

      • by Nikker (749551)
        I actually beg to differ. On smartphones or low powered devices breaking it down to smaller physical processors is likely the most elegant and efficient route. Each aspect of the smartphone OS is compartmentalized. Email is scheduled to run at a specific interval, web browser is refreshing at a different interval all serial on their own in many cases but when it comes to sharing with other processes not very friendly. Then you have 3rd party apps that are all over the board. I think being able to assign sp
        • by dhavleak (912889)

          I actually beg to differ. On smartphones or low powered devices breaking it down to smaller physical processors is likely the most elegant and efficient route.

          But this is not a new challenge (of how to handle multiple processes/threads) -- whether on single-core or multi-core CPUs, or even if you have a machine with multiple CPUs, each of which has multiple cores. All modern OSes can already deal with mutiples threads/processes in each of these scenarios, and the app developer never needs to even think of the underlying implementation. The only design choice remaining relates to workloads. Are they inherently serial or parallel? If inherently serial, then many co

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Problem is with 64 cores you spend a lot of time just managing them all. Not only does the OS have to feed them all tasks to perform, putting them in low power mode when needed, but it has to arbitrate access to shared resources that can only be used by one core at a time.

          The only applications that benefit from 64+ cores are severs that do heavy processing scientific apps. Assuming they are not too limited bt disk or memory access speed.

          A better solution is the one that everyone else has settled on. A few C

      • Smartphone workloads are inherently serial? Are you fsck'ng serious? So when I am googling around while my GPS is keeping track of my location ad I listen to some Joe Satriani being decoded from my SSD and a call comes in and my phone determines what ring to use based on the caller ID ... What the hell are you smoking? (and where can I get some)
      • Since you ignored etiquette and replied as an AC I have replied here to circumvent your attempt to circumvent my reply. You really should pay attention more. For example just because dedicated silicon decodes the mp3 or mp4 stream, that doesn't mean there is no parallel activity. Perhaps you were unaware that as the steam plays my screen is indicating the songs progress for example. You are basically clueless, and clearly have no real world experience writing software for real time embedded systems. I re
        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          I have also replied to many of his comments. Why have dedicated anything when you have 64 cores, the whole path of phones is integrating as much as possible into the proc so you have less chips on the board. Every time he brings up the SOC, he is assuming that there will still be one. Why have dedicated silicon when you can have generic that has the free processors to toss at a job.

          • I especially like the way he switched to posting as AC so he can keep spouting his nonsense while effectively putting his fingers in his ears and shouting NA NA NA NA. It doesn't leave much wonder why he is so clueless.
            • by dhavleak (912889)

              I especially like the way he switched to posting as AC so he can keep spouting his nonsense while effectively putting his fingers in his ears and shouting NA NA NA NA. It doesn't leave much wonder why he is so clueless.

              And we've entered a fact-free zone and reduced to childish bickering.

              Let's take this down a notch. It does nobody any good to be disrespectful. Let's be specific -- what *problem* with current SOC implementations do you think a 64 core CPU will solve? For arguments sake, and for sanity, lets assume 4 of them are integer cores, and 60 (odd number, but what can you do) of them are FPU cores. What problem is it solving, or how is it better?

              • You have it backwards. The correct question is if I have 64 cores I didn't have at my disposal before, what value is added in terms of doing things on the new device that were either difficult or impossible to do with the ancestral architecture.
                • by dhavleak (912889)

                  You have it backwards. The correct question is if I have 64 cores I didn't have at my disposal before, what value is added in terms of doing things on the new device that were either difficult or impossible to do with the ancestral architecture.

                  Very well then, if you have 64 cores that you didn't have at your disposal before, what value is added in terms of doing things on the new device that were either difficult or impossible to do with the current (ancestral assumes shared lineage) architecture?

                  • Exactly !
                  • How about mesh networking, real time encryption, video redirection, and language conversion for starters?
                    • by dhavleak (912889)

                      Encrypting stuff on the fly is a great example. Let's say you benefit from having a core for that, in addition to your existing core. So you're at 2 cores now, with 62 left to go. I do understand that several ciphers will benefit from extra cores, but you have a device with finite storage, and finite battery power, so it begs the question as to how much stuff you're encrypting that you need to dedicate more than 1 core to it.

                      Video redirection is very unclear -- I don't see it as a moblie workload -- but pe

                    • You are just babbling, and you are not so much interested in looking for uses for cores as looking for an argument. I am posting all these from my smartphone, so I'd rather let you think you won than go through all the effort of showing you how much advantage a bit of imagination could be.
                    • by dhavleak (912889)

                      You are just babbling, and ....... looking for an argument

                      I replied as AC to put a stop to the nonsense, and you came back with a santimonious lecture about etiquette. Further -- when you say something I agree with, I freely admit it (see the disk encryption scenario you mentioned). To each their own I guess.

                      You are not so much interested in looking for uses for cores

                      Correct. A sane design approach is to understand use profiles and requirements, and then solve them. Proposing 64 core CPUs without first having a need for it is a backwards approach. The use case you pointed out a thread above (mesh networking + encryptio

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Can the simple tasks required of a smartphone (e.g. AngryBirds) really benefit from that many cores?

      Most of the computation in Angry Birds is filling in pixel values, and that's certainly parallelizable. (But that's why phones already have GPUs with fine-grained parallelism for such tasks).

      Second would be the physics simulation of falling pillars and such. I guess the question there is, do you think the falling blocks in a real-life Jenga game are taking turns?

    • How about *more* angry birds. And make them angrier. Angry x 64 = spitting feathers.
    • Because simple background processes, like downloading Facebook updates, and foreground add-on and system processes, like Swype, gestures, volume controls, and loading small lists (contacts) shouldn't have to interrupt the main CPU which is carrying the high throughput foreground app.

      It's hard enough for a phone to stream Pandora in the background while playing Angry Birds. But let's say you do that, but everytime you touch the screen, either the music skips or Angry Birds freezes. I can't tell you how man

  • heck I even liked the big rotary dials with the extensible extension cord... but maybe that's just me.

    soon, when we buy a phone, we'll ask... hey, is a phone included with that? :)

    • That's pretty much The Big Question for the Xoom right now.
    • by yodleboy (982200)
      i know you joke, but for me that's been the question since maybe 2003. They all do phone stuff, which honestly is the least used feature for me. What else can you do for me without costing as much as a laptop? I spent years going through a couple of phones a year trying to find what was basically a small computer that happened to make calls and was repeatedly disappointed by most phones. For all its faults, the iPhone was a game changer and made the other manufacturers wake up. Now that I've gone Andr
  • Graphics processors' architecture resembles that of a CPU with hundreds (thousands?) of parallel cores. These cores are incredibly limited but it is a rendering format optimized for the information format that they receive (heavily parallelized). Apart from this, GPU's are extremely poor at performing other types of computations.
    • by drewm1980 (902779)

      Graphics processors' architecture resembles that of a CPU with hundreds (thousands?) of parallel cores.

      Cpu is more like 6 cores, with 4 (or soon 8) single precision width vector units. For cuda, it's more like 16 cores, with 32 (or 64 depending on how you're counting) width single precision vector units. Nvidia marketing uses a funny definition of "core"; an cuda SMP is roughly analogous to a cpu core running at a much slower clock, but with a much wider vector unit.

  • by mrmeval (662166) <mrmeval&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:44PM (#36029980) Journal

    Smells of infomercials and burned popcorn.

  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @06:48PM (#36030010)
    TFA is so chalk full of buzzwords and unsubstantiated claims that I can't help but call this a slashvertisement.
    • by Threni (635302)

      I think it's a startup searching for a VC to give it some money. "Loads of cores.. that's good, right? These guys are doing good stuff on smartphones, and I keep reading about them on blogs, so I think it must be worth sinking a few millions dollars on".

  • by adisakp (705706) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @07:15PM (#36030208) Journal
    FTA: However, we do not have a memory management unit, so we can not act as a host for operating systems such as standard Linux or Windows.

    In other words, they either access fixed shared memory pool or they have some directly mapped memory on each core or both.

    These are more like a different take on the SPU cores in a CELL (PS3) processor than a traditional multicore CPU.
    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Seems to me that it's more akin to Chuck Moore's GA144 that's about to ship- except that these are claimed to be programmable by C as opposed to Forth.

      • by mlosh (18885)

        I've been following Chuck Moore's new startup GreenArrays and their progress with much interest. I hope they can announce some major design wins soon.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      In other words, they either access fixed shared memory pool or they have some directly mapped memory on each core or both.

      You mean, in other words, you're alive, or you're dead?

      It does seem a bit daft to not have an MMU. Getting MMUs in desktop machines was a major step forwards in personal computing. I don't particularly want to do without one any time I am running multiple processes...

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        it seems to me they made a dsp architechture and then sticked on smartphone cpu stickers on the press release, because they read on the news that smartphones are a hot investor field.

      • by adisakp (705706)

        You mean, in other words, you're alive, or you're dead?

        It does seem a bit daft to not have an MMU. Getting MMUs in desktop machines was a major step forwards in personal computing. I don't particularly want to do without one any time I am running multiple processes...

        No, it's not all possible states. There are many things you can rule out from the limited information in the article. While there are dozens of ways to connect hardware to each other and have them access memory or communicate, the way this chip seems to work is as a limited accelerator (i.e. like video cards or physics cards) rather than a true CPU for the OS. There's only so many ways a chip like this can coexist with a modern CPU and a modern OS and without an MMU. You can't have it access the same me

  • I only care about hardness

  • I'll believe it when I see it. If anything, the processor cores will be very simple. The biggest bottlenecks will be memory bandwidth and synchronization between the cores. It sounds like what they are doing may be more akin to what GPUs are doing today, though they say nothing about floating point support or even if it's 8, 16, 32 or 64-bits per core.

    The company I work for, Cavium Networks, has a 32 core 64-bit MIPS processor (and yes, it runs Linux).

    -Aaron

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Heh... It should be said that I wouldn't consider the Octeon as a low-power device- it's more intended for high-end network processing engines, isn't it?

  • by ajlitt (19055)

    So, how's that working out for Creative Labs?

  • You'd need over 4GB of ram to run that stuff!

  • The processor also differs from FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), which are reprogrammable circuits that can help execute specific tasks such as XML processing. The Epiphany chips are not restricted to running specific tasks, Olofsson said.

    So... what... they can run a "non-specific" task, and an FPGA can't? Just what is it that these can do that an FPGA can't?

    My understanding is that by being actual processors, they can probably operate faster than an FPGA design for a lot of tasks... might that be it?

    If anyone has any idea what this guy meant, please elaborate. It looks to me like there might've been a useful comment in there, but it might've been lost going through a CEO to being paraphrased by a journalist... But maybe it's obvious to some

    • yeah, he's full of shit, an FPGA can do anything any other piece of silicon can, just not as fast.

      I've worked with FPGAs which had "soft-core" cpu's loaded, running generic ARM code, the same is possible for any cpu architecture

  • Am i the only one who initially parsed the title as "c64-cores"? i figured someone wanted to put a bunch of commode-64 cpu's in there :P

  • My laptop fever, how?
  • this story should actually be titled : Nefarious New World Order plan for mass sterilizations in the developed world


    please god, +1 funny, not +1 insightful...
    • Why bothering to sterilize with silicon-induced high in-trouser temperatures and microwave radiation ?

      With smartphones, the idiots will be anyway too busy playing "Angry Birds" to think about fucking and reproducing...

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