Feeds

NASA's new supercomp sits on a desktop

Sayonara Moore?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Supercomputers are bigger than the average person's holiday cottage, draw enough juice to run a small factory, and require industrial refrigeration units to prevent them cooking themselves, right?

Not necessarily. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has taken delivery of a desktop-sized supercomputer which draws no more power than a hair dryer, based on Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology instead of a CPU.

FPGA chips can reconfigure themselves hundreds or thousands of times a second, making it possible for numerous applications to run simultaneously. Assuming it actually works as advertised, this setup leapfrogs over Moore's Law, yielding a desktop box with 1000 times the power of one running on a CPU.

The power boost comes from the ability of an FPGA array to maximize the use of transistors. A CPU is designed to handle many different sorts of tasks, so only a fraction of its transistors is in use at any given time. An FPGA array, by contrast, can dedicate as many of its transistors as needed for a task on the fly.

NASA's Langley Research Center in suburban Virginia is currently in possession of a HAL (what else would they call it?) "hypercomputer" from Utah-based outfit Star Bridge Systems.

Reg reader Jeffrey George reckons "hypercomputer" should be spelt "HypeOurComputer," after touring the notably fact-light Star Bridge Web site.

Additionally, reader Clark Smith seriously doubts that FPGA chips can reconfigure themselves "thousands of times a second," as a NASA press release claims. "The fastest FPGA currently operates in the 300MHz range," he writes.

No doubt we'll hear more about this faster-than-light marvel in the near future. Other HAL customers include the US Department of Defense (DoD), several telecommunications corporations and some Hollywood special-effects shops.

No word yet on how well the gizmo works, if at all; but if it's a total bust we have every confidence that Intel will promptly let us know. ®

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.