SUPERCOMPUTERS are especially trendy this week after SC08, but it seems even regular desktops could soon be getting the super treatment with computer makers like Dell seriously mulling the possibility of a PC built around Nvidia’s Tesla floating point accelerators.
The idea isn’t one that’s just been pulled out of a hat, but previous attempts at desktop supercomputery have all been a bit of a flop (as opposed to FLOPS). But Nvidia seems to think a Tesla desktop might just cut it, and has set about convincing the likes of Dell, Asus, Lenovo, Scan and Boxx to start configuring one up.
The idea seems to be that the systems would be fully functional PCs based on four Tesla C1060 cards with a quad-core CPU and 16 GB of memory bunged in for good measure. The desktop hulk would boast some 960 graphics cores and should be able to pack a theoretical four TFlops of single-precision processing punch.
Of course, that’s not even mentioning the 400 GFlops in double-precision applications and the C1060 GPUs (T10P processor) clocked at 1.33 GHz putting out a performance of around 900 GFlops in a single-unit configuration. All for just $10,000.
Nvidia reckons a super Tesla puter would weigh in at 250 times faster than a normal desktop PC, but that’s not taking into account a super ATI competitor. A computer boasting an Nvidia SLI system or two of ATI’s Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards could theoretically give the Tesla desktop a run for its money. Also, ATI reckons its tow 4870 X2 cards pack some 2.4 TFlops in single-precision, blowing the four Tesla cards out of the water in double-precision apps with 480 GFlops of performance.
But again, there’s more to life than performance and the Tesla desktop could well outdo other graphics cards when it comes to memory availability. With 4GB of GDDR3 800 memory in each CPU, the Tesla monster packs 16GB of graphics memory overall, coupled with a combined memory bandwidth of 408 GB/s. The downside, however, is that all this performance and memory turns the Tesla desktop into a particularly hungry power-guzzling machine, with the four cards and a processor easily eating their way through 750 watts.
Still, no one is kidding themselves that this will be a desktop to have at home. Instead, the machine will probably come in most useful for universities and firms for which a $10,000 small sized supercomputer doesn’t seem too steep. µ
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