Startup chip company Adapteva is trying out a novel approach for pushing its products into the data center: it’s going to take on Raspberry Pi in the consumer market.
And it’s going to let its audience itself fund development: the “Parallella,” as Adapteva is calling it, is now live on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
In August, Adapteva released the Epiphany-IV chip, a co-processor that can sit alongside the main processor in a data center and dramatically accelerate its computational performance at a whopping 72 GFLOPS per watt.
But the company needed a way to “short-circuit the time the development and the time to adoption,” said Andreas Olofsson, the chief executive of Adapteva. “The adoption rate has been great with labs, but not with business units,” or the commercial customers Adapteva needs to survive. And with just five people as full-time employees at Adapteva, the company needed an alternative form of funding.
So, based on the $25/35 Raspberry Pi homebrew computer and the Arduino community, the Parallella was born. The Parallella platform is based on the Epiphany-III multicore chips developed by Adapteva over the last four years, built onto a board that the company hopes will sell for under $100.
The idea is to “democratize” parallel computing, making it available to the masses and educating a new generation of programmers and tinkers to program in parallel, instead of in single-threaded workloads. This isn’t new; centers like the Universal Parallel Research Center at the U. of Illinois have been beating the parallel-programming drum at conferences like Hot Chips for several years. And Olofsson isn’t a fan of GPUs as co processing solutions, either. “GPU is not the road forward,” he said. “It’s just a stop-gap; it doesn’t scale, and we need to develop a better heterogenous architecture and a different programming paradigm.”
Adapteva will be raising a minimum of $750,000. Specifically, each Parallella board will include a dual-core ARM A9 based system-on-a-chip, and a 16-core Epiphany-III coprocessor chip for $99. The 16-core board Parallella should achieve 13 GHz and 26 GFLOPS of equivalent CPU performance, the company said.
If the Parallella Kickstarter project reaches a “stretch goal” of $3 million, a higher performance Parallella board will be released that includes the pin compatible 64-core Epiphany-IV chip capable of peak performance of 45 GHz and 90 GFLOPS; the Epiphany-IV board will be available to those who pledge $199 or more. The Parallella computers will ship with a Linux Ubuntu distribution and an open source SDK for developing applications for the Epiphany architecture using C, C++, and/or OpenCL.