On Chip Networks and teraflop computing

Last week in a keynote at IDF in bangalore, Intel’s senior fellow Kevin Kahn had a designer from Intel’s India Development centre come up on the stage and show a shining new wafer containing an experimental teraflop programmable processor with 80 cores on the chip. EETimes has more detail:

Each tile includes a small core, or compute element, with a simple instruction set for processing floating-point data,…

The tile also includes a router connecting the core to an on-chip network that links all the cores to each other and gives them access to memory. The second major part is a 20-Mbyte SRAM memory chip that is stacked on and bonded to the processor die. Stacking the die makes possible thousands of interconnects and provides more than a terabyte-per-second of bandwidth between memory and the cores…

“When combined with our recent breakthroughs in silicon photonics, these experimental chips address the three major requirements for terascale computing—Tflops of performance, terabytes-per-second of memory bandwidth, and terabits-per-second of I/O capacity,”…

One of the key challanges faced, as briefly mentioned at the IDF here, was a need for them to come up with an interconnection fabric. This PDF at Intel’s site has some graphical representation of such interconnects and some more information. A few interesting problems arise at such scale of computing, the bibliography at the On-Chip Network resource page seems like a good place to explore more.

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Affordable computing for the masses

The recent introduction of the so called "PC for India" by HCL Infosystems (my first employer, a division which became a part of HCL Technologies), is not a small thing at all, despite what many comments in response to the engadget entry would have you believe. The comparisons with the low end offerings by Dell Inc. and the cheap PCs sold at Wal-Mart etc are overtly misplaced. For one, the target market is domestic sales in India, where the question of prices is one of sheer affordability and not of choice. Secondly this price point and Wal-Mart stores are not part of the Indian IT landscape, atleast not yet. HCL has the infrastructure and reach to make these PCs available across the country and meet the wide demand.

Granted that the most visitors of the engadget site are looking for the latest and greatest to attain their gadget karma (me included), thereby their direct comparison with whats available in the US market as such. However, the "PC for India" is a more practical and commercial solution than the initiatives by the Simputer trust and the PIC by AMD.
As from the coverage article above:

The Linux-based PC will "support applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and web browsing, e-mail clients and audio video playback. It will come bundled with multi-lingual fonts such as Tamil.

The PC was "good for a start" and "will encourage the first time buyer," said Mr. Maran and emphasised that it was a "low-cost PC and not a cheap one."

The main thing to note here is the fact that this PC's positioning is right: first time buyers looking for a low cost option. Availability of a low cost computer, already custmozied for the correct end user experience, without the language barrier for the first time buyers, is bound to increase the reach of computing. Such affordable PCs would play a vital role in further growth and penetration of broadband services in India. Alternative and cheaper communication with new VoIP applications is just one of the many possibilities. Affordable computing is quite a vital building block.