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World's First Polymorphic Computer 113

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the good-kind-of-unstable dept.
tdelama writes to mention Raytheon Company has developed the first polymorphic computer named the Morphable Networked Micro-Architecture (MONARCH) for the US Department of Defense. "'Typically, a chip is optimally designed either for front-end signal processing or back-end control and data processing,' explained Nick Uros, vice president for the Advanced Concepts and Technology group of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. 'The MONARCH micro-architecture is unique in its ability to reconfigure itself to optimize processing on the fly. MONARCH provides exceptional compute capacity and highly flexible data bandwidth capability with beyond state-of-the-art power efficiency, and it's fully programmable.'"
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World's First Polymorphic Computer

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  • Information free (Score:3, Informative)

    by SnowZero (92219) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @05:45PM (#18435219)
    Thanks for the information free summary...
  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @05:53PM (#18435331) Homepage Journal
    There is very, very little new under the sun.

    Back in the early 1970s there was a mini computer called the "Meta 4" whose microprogramming could be changed on the fly. The purpose was to let you run software written for other vendors' instruction sets.

    While the chip being discussed may do other spiffy stuff to optimize its performance in different roles, you really can't call it the first "polymorphic" computer.

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @05:57PM (#18435401)
    Reconfigurable computing using a bunch of FPGAs.

    All FPGA vendors now offer CPU cores (or you can get others from opencores.org). These cores can do a slew of different functions from DSP to straight CPU functions... and yes they do run Linux!

    For example, Xilinx FPGAs can be reconfigured to run at least 5 different CPU cores, including Java processors etc in single or multi-core arrangements. They can also be reconfigured to do hardware DSP (eg. GPS receivers, sonar processing...). They can implement any peripheral function you care to think of. This makes them pretty versatile for military applications: instead of having to carry a whole raft of different hardware, you can carry one set of boards which can be reconfigured as required.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @06:04PM (#18435495)
    Yeah, that's what I was thinking. In fact, I was thinking that, brand names aside, the marketing-speak in the summary sounded exactly like the marketing-speak for the Starbridge systems FPGA-based "hypercomputers" when they were announced in the mid-late 1990s.

  • Re:Vs. FPGA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jake73 (306340) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @06:25PM (#18435791) Homepage
    An FPGA could provide the same functionality, but at a tremendous loss of efficiency. FPGAs have a very high overhead to support reconfiguration. But the reconfiguration is considerably more than this processor (likely) offers. (I couldn't read the article - dead link)

    But with a claim of incredible power efficiency, it's decidedly not an FPGA. I imagine they borrow some of the concepts, but not entirely.

    As a hybrid, FPOA (field-programmable object arrays) provide small programmable "objects" which are less granular than typical FPGA offerings. In the right application, an FPOA can achieve higher speeds and better power efficiency. In the "wrong" application, they're horrible.

    It seems that this device would switch between the high computational efficiency of DSPs and things like graphics processors and the better branching / decision-making performance of general-purpose CPUs.
  • Re:Vs. FPGA? (Score:1, Informative)

    by ubergeek65536 (862868) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @06:57PM (#18436181)
    Other companies have already been working on using standard AMD servers for reconfigurable computing. Using a CPU socket is a step forward but this has been available for years using FPGAs on PCI cards.

    http://www.xtremedatainc.com/xd1000_brief.html [xtremedatainc.com]
    http://www.drccomputer.com/index.html [drccomputer.com]
  • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @07:15PM (#18436391)
    that free info was wrong.

    The first Polymorphic computer [rwebs.net] was introduced in 1976.

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