Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Bringing computing to developing countries

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Coming on the heels of Sun President Jonathan Schwartz’s proclamation a couple of weeks ago that the PC is becoming, if not already, a relic, MIT’s Media Lab is set to ship millions of low-cost laptops to a handful of developing countries in 2006-2007. Targeting children with the $100 laptops (that includes WiFi), the Media Lab hopes to bring the Internet and basic computing to a segment of the population that would probably otherwise never see such technology until adulthood, if then. It is interesting to see how Schwartz’s view and Nicholas Negroponte’s (head of Media Lab) view are strangely similar on where we’ve come from and where we’re going. PCs may be relics to those in modernized societies, but basic computing is still largely unknown to a large percentage of the planet’s population.

The future of computing power

Monday, September 19th, 2005

In this article at Korea’s JoongAng Daily, the President of Lucent Technologies research division states that by 2060, computer CPUs will have the capacity of every human brain combined. That’s a pretty bold prediction, but perhaps not as farfetched as we might think. For those familiar with Ray Kurzweil (more here), the futurist, author, inventor, and AI expert you might recall he predicted in the 1990s that by 2019 the PC will have the processing power of one human brain. By 2029, 1,000 human brains.

Needless to say, computational capacity of big computing machines remains a salient issue, but rarely is it put into terms of human brain processing. One claim has the human brain capable of nearly 20-million-billion calculations per second. But who really knows how accurate that is.

Need to save a little energy?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Not everyone has a supercomputer lying around, especially an idle one, but if you have a high performance system and are looking to save some energy without losing much performance, Los Alamos National Laboratory might have the solution. With the use of EnergyFit 1.0, LANL is claiming a potential 10-25% energy savings in system energy consumption. According to this mobile piece from LinuxHPC.org, EnergyFit is

a transparent software layer based on a novel algorithm that reduces the power and energy consumption of high-performance computing systems.

Developed by Chung-Hsing Hsu and Wu-chun Feng at LANL, this software is another approach to addressing the enormous energy consumption and heat distribution of multiple processor architectures. Reducing the amount of energy used and consequent head produced by big machines leads, among other things, to a decrease in MTBF (mean time between failure) of processors and an increase in overall system reliability.

More information about power consumption and savings on large systems can be found in this Computerworld article.

IPv6 and supercomputing unite

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

New York University reported last week that they are the first American university to provide IPv6 to a supercomputer. IPv6, created to supplant the ageing IPv4, is slowly but surely making its way into the cyberinfrastructure fabric. The NYU system, an IBM eServer ranked 117th on the latest Top500 list, is the flagship system of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and has a peak performance of 4.5 Teraflops.

Connecting this system to the NYSERNet network in New York state is providing enormous collaborative opportunities to the other New York academic institutions and is another great example of critical partnerships. This new supercomputer is the result of a partnership between IBM, NYU, the US Army and Navy.

For more information, see the NYU press release or this release sent to and posted by Internet2.

CBEA chip architecture explained

Friday, August 26th, 2005

IBM has released some introductory info on a new chip architecture originally designed to alleviate memory latency issues in game consoles and other devices but with broader applications on the horizon. Called “Cell Broadband Engine Architecture (CBEA)” or just Cell, the new architecture combines a single Power Processor Element with mulitple (eight) Synergistic Processor Elements on a single-chip multiprocessor. The more detailed introductory information can be found in “Cell Broadband Engine Architecture from 20,000 feet”, by Dr. H. Peter Hofstee at IBM.

The Register also has a piece on the Cell.

The Supercomputing Race

Friday, August 19th, 2005

Today’s New York Times features an article on Racing to build the world’s mightiest computer, pointing out that both China and Japan recently announced plans to break the petaflop barrier, as did a French company, and that several U.S. computer companies are also in the race. The article also points out that the United States typically puts its most powerful computers to work on classified tasks, rather than making them available for open research:

While the United States has regained the lead in supercomputing achievement, its researchers have benefited unevenly. The armed forces and intelligence agencies have traditionally commanded the very largest computing systems here, for example, while other countries have devoted their speediest computers to other efforts, notably research on climate change.

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