Reprogrammable Coprocessors For Any Opteron Server
The Register has a fairly in depth look at one start-up's attempt to capitalize on AMD's HyperTransport interface - a reprogrammable coprocessor that can drop into any Socket 940 socket. The company, DRC, built its programmable coprocessor on Xilinx Virtex4 field programmable gate array integrated circuits.
For specialized industries, a dynamic coprocessor is exactly what the doctor ordered; low overhead for extremely specific tasks such as vector math or collision detection. Companies already pay thousands to millions of dollars to have such overly specific algorithms ported to custom FPGA processors, but the kicker for DRC is that the chip can be integrated into a multi-slot Opteron server running the correct software.
Each series of coprocessors unveiled by the company uses the standard HyperTransport (HT) interface to communicate with the main processor. The low end coprocessor, the DRC100-L60ES, uses a 200MHz by 8-bit HT link. DRC's two high-end modules, the DRC100-L60 and the DRC110-L160 both use a 400MHz by 16-bit interface instead. DRC coprocessors range in size from 50,000 to 140,000 programmable gates and all three can utilize 6.4GBps between the Xilinx FPGA and the DDR400 memory bank.
Each DRC module starts at about $4,500. Competing proprietary systems from SGI and IBM easily cost four times that and generally require additional proprietary hardware and contracts to support.
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