Monday, November 24, 2008

Convey's Reconfigurable Computing System in the NY Times

An article in the New York Times discusses Steve Wallach's Convey Computer Corporation and their new reconfigurable supercomputer.

The Convey machines use FPGAs to augment the CPU's instruction set. From a given FORTRAN or C code, their compiler tools create a "personality," which is Convey's way of re-branding the term "configuration."

Steve has a great quote on his site, which sums up everything I've ever written about the FPGA market on this blog: "The architecture which is simpler to program will win." I was once an intern at Xilinx pushing FORTRAN code through F2C (which redefines "barf" in the f2c.h header file) and massaging the resulting C code through an FPGA compiler. As a general rule, most important milestones in compiler technology diminish the need for a summer intern's manual labor. But while I understand the importance and value of demonstrating the capability of reconfigurable supercomputing on legacy FORTRAN applications, if FPGA supercomputing has a future, I am convinced that we need to break free of the instruction stream control flow model.

I've previously argued that the any approach to accelerating sequential imperative languages like C and FORTRAN only extends the von Neumann syndrome and that we need an explicitly parallel, locality-constrained, dataflow model akin to the spreadsheet if we hope to create scalable applications. Moore's law continues to drive down the cost of a transistor, but the speed of these transistors is limited by a power wall; if we are going to continue the geometric cost reduction of Gigaops, then we need languages and programming models that improve with more transistors and not just with faster transistors.

I agree with Ken Iverson's thesis in "Notation as a Tool of Thought." The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis holds true in computer languages: we are bound to the von Neumann model by the languages we know and use and this is what we must change. In many of his talks and papers, Reiner Hartenstein identifies the dichotomy between von Neumann and reconfigurable computing paradigms. He argues that the divide must be overcome with an updated computer science curriculum.

Programming models aside, the main thing bugging me about the Convey machine is it's price tag: $32,000. Here's what Joe at Scalability has to say about pricing FPGA acceleration reasonably:
One company [at SC08] seemed to have a clue on the FPGA side, basically the pricing for the boards with FPGAs were reasonable. Understand that I found this surprising. The economics of FPGA accelerators have been badly skewed … which IMO served to exclude FPGAs from serious considerations for many users. With the rise in GPU usage for computing, some of the FPGA folks finally started to grasp that you can’t charge 10x node price for 10x single core performance.
I really hope that Convey's increased programmability helps them make huge inroads at this price point so that we can expect super high margins from our products when we launch. I don't know how they will compete with XtremeData, DRC, Nallatech, Celoxica or whoever decides to do the same thing all these companies do with Achronix chips (hmmm...)


Anonymous said...

It will be very interesting to see how FPGA re-configurable computing plays out. For me it's very exciting and fascinating.

Someone I know in a PhD research capacity once pointed out a force that holds FPGA reconfigurability back... it's the fact that FPGA users expect free tools. Hence there is little revenue to fund new innovation and R&D in this space.

otr214426 said...

Work from home theory is fast gaining popularity because of the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. Since one is not bound by fixed working hours, they can schedule their work at the time when they feel most productive and convenient to them. Women & Men benefit a lot from this concept of work since they can balance their home and work perfectly. People mostly find that in this situation, their productivity is higher and stress levels lower. Those who like isolation and a tranquil work environment also tend to prefer this way of working. Today, with the kind of communication networks available, millions of people worldwide are considering this option.

Women & Men who want to be independent but cannot afford to leave their responsibilities at home aside will benefit a lot from this concept of work. It makes it easier to maintain a healthy balance between home and work. The family doesn't get neglected and you can get your work done too. You can thus effectively juggle home responsibilities with your career. Working from home is definitely a viable option but it also needs a lot of hard work and discipline. You have to make a time schedule for yourself and stick to it. There will be a time frame of course for any job you take up and you have to fulfill that project within that time frame.

There are many things that can be done working from home. A few of them is listed below that will give you a general idea about the benefits of this concept.

This is the most common and highly preferred job that Women & Men like doing. Since in today's competitive world both the parents have to work they need a secure place to leave behind their children who will take care of them and parents can also relax without being worried all the time. In this job you don't require any degree or qualifications. You only have to know how to take care of children. Parents are happy to pay handsome salary and you can also earn a lot without putting too much of an effort.

For those who have a garden or an open space at your disposal and are also interested in gardening can go for this method of earning money. If given proper time and efforts nursery business can flourish very well and you will earn handsomely. But just as all jobs establishing it will be a bit difficult but the end results are outstanding.

Freelance can be in different wings. Either you can be a freelance reporter or a freelance photographer. You can also do designing or be in the advertising field doing project on your own. Being independent and working independently will depend on your field of work and the availability of its worth in the market. If you like doing jewellery designing you can do that at home totally independently. You can also work on freelancing as a marketing executive working from home. Wanna know more, email us on and we will send you information on how you can actually work as a marketing freelancer.

Internet related work
This is a very vast field and here sky is the limit. All you need is a computer and Internet facility. Whatever field you are into work at home is perfect match in the software field. You can match your time according to your convenience and complete whatever projects you get. To learn more about how to work from home, contact us today on workfromhome.otr214426@gmail.comand our team will get you started on some excellent work from home projects.

Diet food
Since now a days Women & Men are more conscious of the food that they eat hence they prefer to have homemade low cal food and if you can start supplying low cal food to various offices then it will be a very good source of income and not too much of efforts. You can hire a few ladies who will help you out and this can be a good business.

Thus think over this concept and go ahead.