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Summary:

Computerworld has done a nice job of encapsulating a corporate IT trend we’ve been writing about for the last couple of months with our focus on accelerator chips — among them graphics processors from Nvidia or AMD and Cell (which was designed originally for the PlayStation […]

Computerworld has done a nice job of encapsulating a corporate IT trend we’ve been writing about for the last couple of months with our focus on accelerator chips — among them graphics processors from Nvidia or AMD and Cell (which was designed originally for the PlayStation 3) from IBM — moving into the enterprise. To sum it up, the x86 processor, the workhorse of corporate computing, can do a lot, but accelerators such as Cell or GPUs can do some things better and faster, such as Monte Carlo simulations on Wall Street or video encoding and decoding.

That’s leading some IT managers to look into hybrid machines like the newly launched Roadrunner supercomputer, which uses AMD’s x86 chips and Cell. Hybrid machines won’t take over the data center, but plenty of firms that build high-performance computing systems for enterprises are eying the trend with interest.

The Computerworld article quotes Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, as saying that 40 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies will be using hybrid computers within five years. One challenge will be getting enterprise software ported onto the different chip architecture through efforts like Nvidia’s CUDA or IBM’s software development kits for Cell, but there are plenty of companies working on that problem.

photos courtesy of IBM

  1. Last year Sony built a cluster of rack-mounted PlayStation 3s to power an online version of its WarHawk game:

    http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2007/Aug/09/playstation_3_clusters_in_the_data_center.html

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  2. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    The elephant in the room is Intel’s forthcoming Larrabee, which will be a GPU-style processor that runs x86 instructions. Can these non-x86 solutions gain enough of a foothold that they won’t be displaced by Larrabee? With Larrabee due by 2010, does it make sense to spend a lot of money developing/porting to a non-x86 platform?

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  3. hey, that’s Don Grice!

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  4. [...] AMD x86 chips in RoadRunner, the fastest supercomputer ever built. Meanwhile, engineers started putting it in blade servers for high-performance computing. Now IBM says it will return to its entertainment roots in a Toshiba television due out next year, [...]

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  5. [...] side, the x86 architecture doesn’t seem to be in danger of losing much ground, (despite the use of accelerator chips in high-performance computing as well as for certain specialized jobs), but the focus on power is waning. Dessau spoke of a shift [...]

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  6. [...] March 5, 2009 | 10:28 AM PT | 0 comments Texas Instruments is looking to hop on the trend of using non x86 processors in the data center, according to Kathy Brown, general manager of the company’s wireless base station [...]

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  7. [...] makes one of these “expert” chips, called the Cell, which it’s pushing into data centers and high-performance computing. Other chip vendors such as Texas Instruments or Tensilica, which are pushing DSPs for specialty [...]

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  8. [...] expending as many watts, they are experimenting with different kinds of processors that may be better-suited to a particular task, such as using graphics processors for Monte Carlo simulations. This means that, on these [...]

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  9. [...] expending as many watts, they are experimenting with different kinds of processors that may be better-suited to a particular task, such as using graphics processors for Monte Carlo [...]

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  10. [...] supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and computers taking advantage of GPUs or architectures like IBM’s Cell for parallel computing jobs, I should really know [...]

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