Some time ago I wrote a blog From RTL to GDSII in Just Six Weeks about a guy Andreas Olofsson who left his job, formed a company called Adapteva, and – working in his basement and living off his pension fund – single-handedly invented a new computer architecture. Andreas designed his own System-on-Chip (SoC) from the ground up – Including learning how to use all of the EDA tools – then took the device all the way to working silicon and a packaged prototype... and that's when things really started to get interesting!
The chip that Andreas designed is called the Epiphany. This is an array of processor cores, each equipped with its own local memory and a single-precision floating-point engine. Everything is designed so as to offer optimum performance while consuming as little power as possible. Epiphany is extremely scalable – The Epiphany-III (implemented at the 65nm node) boasts an array of 16 processors, while the Epiphany-IV (implemented at the 28nm node) features an array of 64 processors.
The end result is that, when operating at peak performance, running at 800MHz, the Epiphany-IV offers 100 Gflops of raw computing power while consuming only 2W. This means that, at 50Gflops/Watt, the Epiphany-IV is 50 to 100X more efficient than anything else out there.
Well, I just heard from Andreas. His current project is to create an open source personal supercomputer platform that anyone can buy for only $100, and that can be used to implement the most compute-intensive tasks like embedded and robotic vision, software-defined radios, and … well, almost anything really.
This supercomputer, which is called the Parallella, is based on a combination of the Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC from Xilinx and the Epiphany from Adapteva as illustrated in the block diagram below.
The Zynq-based Parallella personal supercomputer
Initially there will be two versions of this little beauty -- the version equipped with an Epiphany E16 (16 cores) will cost only $100, while the version equipped with an Epiphany E64 (64 cores) will cost only $199. I'm told that, even when running flat out, the Parallella equipped with an Epiphany E64 will consume as little as 5W!
The guys and gals at Adapteva are currently using a Zynq evaluation board to extensively prototype the user experience of the Parallella boards. In our chat earlier, Andreas told me: "The user experience of running Ubuntu (one of the more popular flavors of Linux) on the Zynq is fantastic!"
The picture below shows Andreas' Zynq evaluation board with an Epiphany daughter card plugged in via one of the FMC connectors.
A Zynq development board with an Epiphany daughter card
Are you familiar with Kickstarter.com
? This is a funding platform for creative projects -- everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. If people like a particular project, they can pledge money to make it happen. It's only if the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal that the backers' credit cards are charged -- if the project falls short, no one is charged.
The point is that Andreas and the folks at Adapteva have set Parallella up as a Kickstarter project. If you are interested, you can click here
to learn more and -- if you wish -- make a pledge. Pledges can be as little as $15 or as much as $10,000 or more.
In order to proceed, they need to raise $750,000 by the Kickstarter deadline of Saturday 27 October at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. I personally have every confidence that if they get the money they will succeed. After all, this project is led by the man who single-handedly designed a silicon chip in his basement.
It's not often you get a chance to really "make a difference" in this world. I just pledged $99 myself
. For this, when the project succeeds, I will receive my own Epiphany E16-based Parallella loaded with all of the development tools required to implement almost any project of my dreams. What say you? Are you with me?
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