Adapteva aims 64-core chip at tablets, smartphones

The Epiphany IV chip will work with CPUs and add processing horsepower

Smartphones and tablets are demanding more computing power, and chip company Adapteva hopes to bring server-type performance to the devices with a chip it is announcing on Monday.

The Epiphany IV chip packs 64 cores, and can provide 70 gigaflops of performance while consuming one watt of power, said Andreas Olofsson, Adapteva's CEO. A watt may be high for smartphones, but performance and power consumed by the cores can be scaled down to accelerate tasks such as hand-gesture recognition and face recognition, Olofsson said.

The chip cannot host a full OS, and is intended to be a co-processor to take processing load off CPUs. Epiphany IV has a mesh design for faster data exchange, and the parallel cores have been arranged in a square with multiple points of contact to receive and transfer data. Cores can be easily added to scale performance, and the multiple communication points help resolve bandwidth issues.

"We're not trying to take on Intel or ARM, we're trying to sit next to it," Olofsson said.

Adapteva's mobile ambitions follow an initial foray into the supercomputing space, where there has been an interest in using the chip for grid-based tasks such as environmental modeling. The company, which employs five people, already has one licensee, but Olofsson declined to name it.

Beyond supercomputing, the Epiphany IV's small size and low-power attributes make it a good co-processor in smartphones and tablets, Olofsson said.

The company hopes to license the chip design to mobile chip makers, and so far the reception has been positive, Olofsson said. The accelerator could fit inside a system-on-chip, which combines the CPU with a number of processors such as graphics and video acceleration units.

"Our goal is to get into the next generation of smartphones and tablets," Olofsson said.

The Epiphany IV is based on a RISC (reduced instruction set computing) design, Olofsson said. The chip's cores consume up to 25 milliwatts of power at peak performance, and the chip for smartphones and tablets can have up to 64 cores. The chip will be made using the 28-nanometer process, and provides an incremental power and performance upgrade over its predecessor, which was made using the 65-nanometer process. The previous chip, which was announced earlier this year, had 16 cores and drew just under 1 watt of power.

The 64-core reference design of Epiphany IV will be available the first quarter of next year, Olofsson said.

Adapteva's chip is not a general purpose processor, and it differs from other accelerators such as the more power hungry graphics processors, which accelerate certain scientific and math applications, said Nathan Brookwood , principal analyst at Insight 64. Adapteva's chip may also cost less than FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), which are reprogrammable units designed to execute specific tasks such as XML processing.

"The size of [Epiphany IV] cores is minuscule," Brookwood said. "Even if you have 64 cores, it's still a small chip."

However, Adapteva has more opportunities in high-performance computing as supercomputers are increasingly using accelerators to boost performance, Brookwood said. An Intel Xeon chip with an Epiphany IV chip could potentially outperform a bunch of Xeon processors, Brookwood said.

"If a smartphone needed this level of performance, then this would make some sense. Right now I don't think smartphones need this," Brookwood said.

Olofsson said there may be little interest in Adapteva's chip in data centers, which is dominated by servers running chips based on the x86 architecture. While Epiphany can work alongside Intel or Advanced Micro Devices CPUs, it cannot accelerate legacy applications written for the x86 architecture.

Adapteva will continue to chase the high-performance computing market where supercomputers can take advantage of Epiphany's parallelism, Olofsson said. Adapteva's chip can host applications written using the OpenCL standard, a set of programming tools to develop and manage parallel task execution. With OpenCL, programmers can write code once for deployment across multiple computing environments. Apple, Nvidia, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are among the many companies backing OpenCL.

The Epiphany IV can scale up to 4,096 cores for a high-performance computer, Olofsson said.

"It's not science fiction, we can do it, but we need a customer to come and ask us to design it," Olofsson said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags supercomputerstabletsprocessorshardware systemsComponentsHigh performanceAdapteva

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?