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The Tera MTA

Machine type Distributed-memory multi-processor
Models MTA-xC, x = 1,...,256
Operating system Unix BSD4.4 + proprietary micro kernel
Compilers Fortran 77 (Fortran 90 extensions), HPF, ANSI C, C++
Vendors information Web page
Year of introduction 1997.

System parameters:

Model MTA-xC
Clock cycle 3 ns
Theor. peak performance
Per proc. (64-bit) 1 Gflop/s
Maximal (64-bit) 256 Gflop/s
Main memory <= 256 GB
No. of processors 16--256


Although the memory in the MTA is physically distributed, the system is emphatically presented as a shared memory machine (with non-uniform access time). The latency incurred in memory references is hidden by multi-threading, i.e., usually many concurrent program threads (instruction streams) may be active at any time. Therefore, when for instance a load instruction cannot be satisfied because of memory latency the thread requesting this operation is stalled and another thread of which an operation can be done is switched into execution. This switching between program threads only takes 1 cycle. As there may be up to 128 instruction streams and 8 memory references can be issued without waiting for preceding ones, a latency of 1024 cycles can be tolerated. References that are stalled are retried from a retry pool. A construction that works out similarly is to be found in the Stern Computing Systems SSP machines.

The connection network connects a 3-D cube of p processors with sides of p1/3 of which alternately the x- or y axes are connected. Therefore, all nodes connect to four out of six neighbours. In a p processor system the worst case latency is 4.5p1/2 cycles; the average latency is 2.25p1/2 cycles. Furthermore, there is an I/O port at every node. Each network port is capable of sending and receiving a 64-bit word per cycle which amounts to a bandwidth of 22.6 GB/s per port. In case of detected failures, ports in the network can be bypassed without interrupting operations of the system.

Although the MTA should be able to run ``dusty-deck'' Fortran programs because parallelism is automatically exploited as soon as an opportunity is detected for multi-threading, it may be (and often is) worthwhile to explicitly control the parallelism in the program and to take advantage of known data locality occurrences. MTA provides handles for this in the form of library routines, including synchronisation, barrier, and reduction operations on defined groups of threads. Controlled and uncontrolled parallelism approaches may be freely mixed. Furthermore, each variable has a full/empty bit associated with it which can be used to control parallelism and synchronisation with almost zero overhead. HPF will also be supported for SPMD-style programming.

Measured Performances: The company planned to deliver a 2-processor system to the San Diego Supercomputing Center by the end of 1997 but it did not receive production network boards for a multiprocessor system in time. Tera expects to receive the boards shortly, and thereafter upgrade the system in stages to larger configurations. So, at this moment actual performances cannot yet be reported.

next up previous contents
Next: Distributed-memory MIMD systems Up: Shared-memory MIMD systems Previous: The Sun E10000 Starfire.

Aad van der Steen
Thu Feb 12 10:42:26 MET 1998