Supercomputing with the Parallella board

Esprit Supernode Transputer Processor Board
Esprit Supernode Transputer Processor Board

Some twenty years ago I set up a company to configure parallel computers for image processing applications. Unfortunately, demand wasn’t very high because of the poor price/performance ratio and the advent of RISC processors which surpassed it. I was therefore very excited when about a year ago Adapteva created a kickstarter project to offer affordable parallel computing to everyone. While I didn’t sign up for the kickstarter project I did order a parallella board through their shop. The board took quite sometime to arrive but is now running quite happily on my desk.

The Parallella Computer

The Parallella is a credit card sized computer that includes a dual-core ARM A9 CPU, a field programmable gate array (FPGA), and a 16 or 64-core Epiphany coprocessor. The Parallella is an extremely versatile platform that can be used as a standalone computer, an embedded device, or a component in a supercomputer architecture.

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The Epiphany Coprocessor

The Epiphany multicore coprocessor is a scalable shared memory architecture, featuring up to 4,096 processors on a single chip connected through a high-bandwidth on-chip network. Each Epiphany processor core includes:

  • a tiny high performance floating point RISC designed specifically for multicore processing;
  • a high bandwidth local memory system;
  • an extensive set of built in hardware features for multicore communication.

The Epiphany coprocessor is ANSI-C and OpenCL programmable and works in cooperation with standard microprocessors to provide an unprecedented level of real-time processing performance and power consumption. This makes the device ideal for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

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Applications

The list of possible applications is quite large and included below.

Consumer:

  • Smart-phones and tablet app acceleration
  • High end audio
  • Computational photography
  • Speech Recognition
  • Face detection/recognition

Computing Infrastructure:

  • Super Computers
  • Big Data Analytics
  • Software Defined Networking
  • Data-center Appliances
  • High Frequency Trading

Mil/Aero:

  • Radar/Sonar
  • Extremely Large Sensor Imaging
  • Hyperspectral Imaging
  • Communication Jamming
  • Military Radios
  • Munitions/Guidance

Medical:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT

Communication:

  • Communication test-bed
  • Software defined radio
  • Adaptive Pre-distortion

Industrial/Instrumentation:

  • Machine Vision
  • Autonomous Robots/Navigation
  • Automotive Safety
  • High Speed Data Acquisition/Generation

Other:

  • Compression
  • Security Cameras
  • Video Transcoding

 

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