Thursday, June 16, 2011

#CHIPS: "Smarter Cloud on-a-Chip Goes Green"

Intel's Cloud 2015 Vision aims to help businesses implement cloud computing solutions that are federated, automated and client-aware. (Source: Intel)

Intel is distributing a smarter experimental cloud computer on-a-chip to research organizations worldwide. Intel's prototype cloud computer on-a-chip makes smarter use of power, accounting for its recognition earlier this year by the German government, which awarded Intel the Innovation Prize for Climate and the Environment. Intel's single-chip cloud computer holds the promise of drastically cutting the power consumption of server farms at future data centers."

Today, server farms use Intel's Xeon embedded processor, which can consume upward of 50 watts. But in its vision of future server farms, massively parallel single-chip cloud computers with sophisticated power management circuitry will consume as little as a half-watt per core.

Intel's current single-chip cloud computer prototype houses 48 cores on a single chip that consumes just 25 watts in standby mode, and even when all cores are running full speed, it consumes just 125 watts—about 2.6 watts each. As a result, server farms using the environmentally friendly massively parallel processors could realize the dream of ultra-green IT.
To realize the vision, Intel has partnered with research organizations worldwide to help it test and perfect the architecture of future single-chip cloud computers as well as develop the necessary software glue as members of its Many-core Applications Research Community (MARC).

Intel's single-chip cloud computer does more with less by partitioning software into parallel executing tasks for which the power-supply voltage and clock speed (and thus power consumption) are tuned to be as low as possible. By carefully synchronizing task execution so that each finishes just in time to make its results available, the power consumption of the cores executing each task is minimized. In the best case, entire blocks of on-chip cores will be turned off completely while the results of other tasks on which they are dependent finish. As a result, future data centers could offer expanded computing resources that nevertheless consume less power while serving users of smart cloud-clients.

In Intel's roadmap to the ultra-green, cloud-based data centers of the future—called its Cloud 2015 Vision—the company aims to help businesses implement cloud computing solutions that are federated, automated and client-aware. By 2015, Intel hopes to realize this vision by building servers around single-chip cloud computers housing over 100 cores—each a microcosm of the cloud-based data center itself.

Using a packet-based message-passing programming model, Intel's partners are working to create smarter software applications that ditch traditional algorithms in favor of distributed memory models that reduce the need for redundant memory caches that waste power. Instead, smart on-chip mesh communications networks will divide and conquer software by partitioning it into parallel executing tasks, each of which uses the absolute minimum necessary amount of power, thus realizing the dream of ultra-green IT.
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