[GTALUG] How to go fast without speculating... maybe

Alvin Starr alvin at netvel.net
Mon Jan 29 21:17:20 EST 2018

A number of groups have tried to develop extremely parallel processors 
but all seem to have gained little traction.

There was the XPU 128, the Epiphany(http://www.adapteva.com/) and more 
recently the Xenon Phi and AMD Epyc.

At one point I remember reading a article about sun developing an 
asynchronous CPU which would be interesting.

All these processors run into the same set of problems.
     1) x86 silicon is amazingly cheap.
     2) supporting multiple CPUs cause more software support for each 
new CPU architecture.
     3) very little software is capable of truly taking advantage of 
many parallel threads without really funky compilers and software design 
     4) having designed a fancy CPU most companies try very hard to keep 
their proprietary knowledge all within their own control where the x86 
instruction set must be just about open source now days.
     5) getting motherboard manufacturers to take a chance on a new CPU 
is not an easy thing.

My benchmark for processor success is: Does several of 
Asus,Supermicro,Tyan,Gigabyte et al make a motherboard for this CPU.

Even people with deep pockets like DEC with their Alpha CPU and IBM with 
their Power CPUs have not been able to make a significant inroad into 
the commodity server world.
Mips has had some luck with low to mid range systems for routers and 
storage systems but their server business is long gone with the death of 
Sun/Oracle has had some luck with the Sparc but not all that much 
outside their own use and I am just speculating but I would bet that 
Sun/Oracle sells more x86 systems than Sparc systems.

ARM seems to be having some luck but I believe that luck is because of 
their popularity in the small computer systems world sliding into 
supporting larger systems and not by being designed for servers from the 
get go.

I am a bit of a processor geek and have put lots of effort in the past 
into elegant processors that just seem to go nowhere.
I would love to see some technologies other than the current von Neumann 
somewhat parallel SMP but I have a sad feeling that that will be a long 
time coming.

With the latest screw-up from Intel and the huge exploit surface that is 
the Intel ME someone may be able to get some traction by coming up with 
a processor that is designed and verified for security.

On 01/29/2018 05:36 PM, David Collier-Brown via talk wrote:
> Kunle Olukotun didn't like systems that wasted their time stalled on 
> loads and branches. He and his team at Afara Websystems therefor 
> designed a non-speculating processor that did work without waits. It 
> became the Sun T1.
>   Speed without speculating
> The basic idea is to have more decoders than ALUs, so you can have 
> lots of threads competing for an ALU.  If, for example, thread 0 comes 
> to a load, it will stall, so on the next instruction thread 1 gets the 
> ALU, and runs... until it stalls and thread 2 get the ALU.  Ditto for 
> thread 3, and control goes back to thread 0, which has completed a 
> multi-cycle fetch from cache and is ready to proceed once more.
> That is the basic idea of the Sun T-series processors.
> The strength is that the ALUs are never waiting for work. The weakness 
> is that individual threads still have to wait for data to come from cache.
>   You can improve on that
> Now imagine it isn't entire ALUs that are the available resources, its 
> individual ALU component, like adders.  Now the scenario becomes
>   * thread 0 stalls
>   * thread 1 get an adder
>   * thread 2 gets a compare (really a subtracter)
>   * thread 3 gets a branch unit, and will probably need to wait in the
>     next cycle
>   * thread 4 gets an adder
>   * thread 5 gets an FPU
> ... and so on. Each cycle, the hardware assigns as many ALU components 
> as it has available to threads, all of which can run. Only the stalled 
> threads are waiting, and they don't need ALU bits to do that.
> Now more threads can run at the same time, the ALU components are 
> (probabilistically) all busy, and we have increased capacity. But 
> individual threads are still waiting for cache...
>   Do I feel lucky?
> In principle, we could allocate two adders to thread 5, one doing the 
> current instruction and another doing a subsequent, non-dependent 
> instruction. It's not speculative, but it is out-of-order. That makes 
> some threads twice as fast when doing non-interacting calculations. 
> Allocate it three adders and it's three times as fast.
> If we're prepared to have more ALU components than decoders, decode 
> deeply and we have enough of each to be likely to be able to find lots 
> of non-dependent instructions, then we can be executing multiple 
> instructions at once in multiple streams, and probabilistically get 
> /startlingly/ better performance.
> I can see a new kind of optimizing compiler, too: one which tries to 
> group non-dependent instructions together.
>   Conclusion
> Is this what happens in a T5? That's a question for a hardware 
> developer: I have no idea... yet
> Links:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunle_Olukotun
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afara_Websystems
> https://web.archive.org/web/20110720050850/http://www-hydra.stanford.edu/~kunle/
> -- 
> David Collier-Brown,         | Always do right. This will gratify
> System Programmer and Author | some people and astonish the rest
> davecb at spamcop.net            |                      -- Mark Twain
> ---
> Talk Mailing List
> talk at gtalug.org
> https://gtalug.org/mailman/listinfo/talk

Alvin Starr                   ||   land:  (905)513-7688
Netvel Inc.                   ||   Cell:  (416)806-0133
alvin at netvel.net              ||

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