Saturday, September 09, 2006

Beep-beep: IBM licenses coherent HyperTransport?

Whoa, I missed a big newsbyte last week: IBM announced it will make a petaflops-class supercomputer called Roadrunner using a combination of 16,000 of its Cell (i.e. Sony PlayStation3) processors and 16,000 AMD Opterons.

For IBM’s spin see

I have yet to talk to the IBMers involved (watch this space), but the press release quotes an AMD exec as saying that "this is an excellent demonstration of Torrenza in action.”

The implication is IBM is licensing the coherent version of HyperTransport (aka Torrenza) which AMD has only recently said it would make available. Last I looked AMD hadn’t even worked out all the technical details and legal terms. Another interesting bit is the system will apparently use HT over a backplane or cable because the release says IBM will build the system from its off-the-shelf Opteron and Cell server systems. That’s a first as far as I know.

Clearly, there are a few more shoes to fall on this one. One thing I do know: The press release makes a big fuss about this being “a new era of heterogeneous technology designs in supercomputing” because the system will use Opteron and Cell CPUs.

Truth is Cray ushered this era in several months back when they detailed their plans for the DARPA HPCS Phase III system that will include three types of processors found on their existing families of systems today. Go to and search for ID 695752 for the full story. IBM is just following the leader on this one.

By the way, what’s holding DARPA up on announcing whether Cray, IBM or Sun won that HPCS Phase III deal? Dear bloggers, if you know, please tell me! If you want to read about the program go to –rbm

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hybrid looks like a cool approach to accelerating job execution. Not clear how well HT will scale up but with quad and likely higher core counts coming, it may not matter. Being coherent is great since latency will be so much lower making it easier for software to progam and deliver performance.

What I'm waiting to see is when Nvidia and ATI get into the act and start shipping graphics cards as acceleration engines for servers. Doing this over coherent HT will provide a huge performance boost like Cell. CGI guys must be wetting their chops waiting for this.