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Prototype Motherboard Clusters Self-Coordinating Modules 115

An anonymous reader writes "A group of hardware hackers has created a motherboard prototype that uses separate modules, each of which has its own processor, memory and storage. Each square cell in this design serves as a mini-motherboard and network node; the cells can allocate power and decide to accept or reject incoming transmissions and programs independently. Together, they form a networked cluster with significantly greater power than the individual modules. The design, called the Illuminato X Machina, is vastly different from the separate processor, memory and storage components that govern computers today."
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Prototype Motherboard Clusters Self-Coordinating Modules

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  • Neat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HomelessInLaJolla ( 1026842 ) <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:51PM (#29126605) Homepage Journal

    Are they hiring people to write an OS for it? Eventually all of those nodes need to be able to talk to a video card, display something on a screen, talk to a network card and communicate with the network in a fashion that the general public will expect.

    I wouldn't even do it for the money. Provide me with a suitable environment and I would do it just because it would be enjoyable. I cannot do it while sleeping on the street and eating peanut butter and jelly, though.

    I am trying to figure out if it would be a sin to work on a project like that. If housing and support were dependent on me working on a project then it would be a sin. If someone would say,"We trust that what you do isn't 'evil', here's a place to stay and an allotment for meals and resources, here are the specs that we have now, and here's a whole room full of dry erase boards. Have at it."

  • by wjsteele ( 255130 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @07:19PM (#29126819)
    into the 3rd Dimension. Imagine if they also had connectors on the top and bottom of the unit. We could then start to do real matrix programming. Once CPU could talk to 6 and traverse the levels or talk to peers depending on the need. If they were also on the diaganols, they could get even more complex. More like the human brain.

    Wow, I'd really like to have about 512 of these to play around with! I can see doing something very cool with these and a little bit of fuzzy logic or neural network programming. I just wonder how addressing is handled.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @07:36PM (#29126993)

    i agree w/ you. It's ludicrous when the article states that the team has no "data" comparing the system to an Intel Core Duo chip. There is no need to collect data. Basic models from the specs show how pointless this exercise is.

    Let's just consider how many little chips equal the power of a 3GHz chip? there's no direct comparison, but the ratio of clock speeds is about 50:1. So, about 50 boards is roughly equivalent in clock cycles to a $100 chip. I hope those boards cost less than $2 apiece.

    One could also compare the volatile memory... 16K*50 would be less than 1MB of ram, which is much smaller than the cache of a decent Intel chip. Nevermind the incredible bus speed of low-level cache, or its very wide bus. Also, consider that the switches in an intel chip allow that data to reach any other part of the system very quickly. In that awful little 16-bit bus, transfers will be staggeringly slower. Not only does that interconnect greatly limit the memory bandwidth, but the CPUs will have to stop computing in order to route the data.

    I don't care how impressive anyone thinks that "programming" demo video appears. It transferred 128KB in 1 second for ~=1 Mbit of bandwidth. That is appalling for a network protocol. As a proposed replacement for a superscale CPU's context swap, it's dismal.

    This project should not be presented in a magazine, it should be destroyed in private, preferably by burning.

  • Re:Neat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZackSchil ( 560462 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @08:38PM (#29127513)

    I have mod points and I was going to re-mod this post as something other than Troll, but none of the options fit any better.

    There should be mods like "+0 Weird" or "+0 Rambling coherently".

  • Great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by British ( 51765 ) <british1500@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:02PM (#29127657) Homepage Journal

    You have just re-invented Lego. Seriously, I like this idea. Want a gaming system? Put these together. Want a server? Put those together instead. Some component break? Swap it out.

  • by dha ( 23395 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:53PM (#29128079)

    I love it.

    Note that there's more truth in this fantasy than one might think, at least potentially. IXM nodes don't have the ability to fry each other, but they do supply each other with power, and that power switching is under software control.

    So in many configurations, IXM nodes absolutely and literally do have the power to reach a consensus about a misbehaving neighbor and shut it down.

  • by RoccamOccam ( 953524 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:08PM (#29128181)
    Exactly. I have a 256-processor system down in my basement, that I built in 1988-89. Composed of Size 1 (9.3 cm x 2.7 cm) TRAMs (TRAnsputer Modules), each node had a 25 MHz T805 and 4 MB RAM. Each transputer had four 20 Mbit/s bidirectional serial links. Starting with a single processor connected to the host PC, a downloaded program would follow the defined link topology to boot and program each processor in turn.

    Hardware-wise, it looks like the system described in the article really only trumps the transputer by virtue of the reconfigurable power sub-system. The transputer was a fantastic bit of engineering.
  • Finally! Very cool. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suomynonAyletamitlU ( 1618513 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:41PM (#29128391)

    I've had exactly this idea for a couple years now, if not anywhere near a workable design. If it's done properly, it could be very interesting.

    It being done properly would require:
    * Distributed power
    * Very high speed and high-reliability inter-module communication
    * Hotplugging
    * Standardized inter-module APIs and connectors
    * An OS capable of organizing the entire system seamlessly (I have my ideas) and securely (I don't)

    I can't speak to the technical abilities of such a system but if it was running it could easily become one of those sci-fi systems from the movies that everyone insists can be done but which has yet to appear--taking "your" part of the computer with you and just plugging your desktop session in to whatever computer you come across. You could also have software running on modules that is separate from the CPU, so that, for instance, your hard drive will not only defrag on its own when not busy, but will also do virus and spyware scans. And if you have a module that just absolutely can't be allowed to be reverse-engineered, have it have its own secret processor and instruction set with capabilities that are accessable to the system via APIs without the internal processes being at all open to the system.

    I'm sure they wouldn't be interested, but I'll have to find and send an email to these guys.

  • Buy Your Own (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 20, 2009 @12:22AM (#29129115)
    I buy equipment from these guys, glad to see they are still at it. Why read about it when you can buy your own copy of this project [liquidware.com]
  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bakkster ( 1529253 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nam.retskkaB.> on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:29AM (#29131145)

    Larger computers are already more powerful in general than the same generation of smaller computers.

    Small, fast, and cheap: pick two.

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