art with code

2011-01-13

The computer hardware of 2011

Here's a 1500e computer for 2011. It's a build where I tried to minimize the bottlenecks and get a nice memory pyramid with GPU cache 2 TB/s, GPU RAM 300GB/s, CPU cache 200GB/s, RAM 20GB/s, IO 2GB/s. Throw in 100e worth of spinning disks there in RAID-0 for a trailing 0.2GB/s disk IO.

CPU: 4-6 cores, 3.5GHz, 150e.
Motherboard: 150e.
Case: 50e steel box with razor-sharp edges and PSU from hell.

Total: 350e.

Memory: 8GB @ 150e.
Memory bandwidth: 20GB/s.

Total: 500e.

IO subsystem: 4xSSD RAID-0 @ 500e.
2GB/s streaming IO bandwidth.
1.5GB/s random access IO bandwidth at 4k block size.

Total: 1000e.

GPU: two upper middle-class things @ 500e.
Computing power: 3 TFLOPS.
Memory bandwidth: 300GB/s.

Total: 1500e.

(Optionally 2x 500GB disks, 0.2GB/s IO bandwidth @ 100e for a total of 1600e.)


Reasons for the selections:

The performance difference between a 150e CPU and a 300e CPU is ~15%, and around 25% with overclocking. The point is more to get high memory bandwidth with minimal cost. Non-bargain mobo selected for 6Gbps SATA and dual GPUs. Only 8GB memory to cut costs. All money saved was tossed on getting random access IO onto the order-of-magnitude curve and the GPUs to cap the top end of the memory bandwidth curve (and for a disproportionate amount of computing power). The SSD numbers are based on recently announced SATA 6Gbps drives. If you don't care about GPU performance, get a 300e CPU, use IGP, double the RAM and buy an extra SSD.

Now, programming this thing is going to be interesting. Not only do the CPU and GPU require parallelism to extract reasonable performance, but the random access IO subsystem does too. The IO subsystem latencies are probably in the 0.2ms range but it can do 64 parallel accesses.

A single-threaded C program will achieve maybe 1% of peak performance of the hardware, if that.

For legacy software, you could buy a 300e computer and it'd perform just as well.

CPU: 70e, mobo: 60e, case: 50e, RAM: 20e, SSD: 90e. Toss a 40e disk in there for good measure.

Or better yet, quit computers altogether and spend all the money on furniture.
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Built art installations, web sites, graphics libraries, web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, media player themes, many nutty prototypes, much bad code, much bad art.

Have freelanced for Verizon, Google, Mozilla, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Valve Software, TDK Electronics.

Ex-Chrome Developer Relations.