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October 2, 2012

Parallela: SuperComputing for all of us?

Adapteva presented a KickStarter project, Parallela, a $99 boards that promise super-computing for any one, with highly parallel RISC engine. Designed to be programmed using OpenCL drivers and compilers, it’s an alternative to other OpenCL devices, including GPU, IBM Cell, etc.

This project is interesting at first, but I wonder who could be interested by this projet, even if you limit the budget at $99.

The Parallela board promised 32Gflops peak, for approximately 5W (maybe more on some cases), while a Quad-core PC with n OpenCL GPU will offers you 4000 Gflops (125X) for 500W (100X). A PC is easily 25% more efficient with a single GPGPU, and could offers as much as 2X more power efficiency (Gflops/Watt) with 3 or 4 GPU!

A $1000 PC configuration with an high-end GPU will cost you 10X the price of the Parallela boards, while delivering up to 125X the performance-level: it’s 12X more effective on Gflops/$!

And it get worse if you consider having an high-end PC with 3 or 4 GPU!

Alternative at $99 price point
You might consider to invest $99 in an AMD Radeon HD 7750, that support OpenCL (and some other tools), and offers at leat 820 Gflops SP (25X faster) while adding up to 70W power-consumption.

That’s 25X more Gflops / $ invested, and it’s 3X more power-efficient if you already own a PC with an available slot! Ouch!

Development tools are available for Windows and Linux too, including Open-Source dev tools. Moreover your development will run as is on any PC or Mac having an OpenCL-enabled graphic card or CPU driver!

Parallela, the supercomputing for who?!?
The Adapteva chips are interesting if you plan to create embedded high-performance devices, but in no case Parallela could be considered a SuperComputer, neither in performance-level, in Gflops/Watt or in GFlops/$ invested.

Still it’s an interesting project, because new players in the parallel-computing fields may be game changers in the long-run. The Epiphany-IV processor for example is far more interesting than the Epiphany-III proposed for Parallela, with 3X more performance on the same power enveloppe, and thus more power-efficient than a GPGPU solution.

Why not launching Parallela with Epiphany-IV directly?!?

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