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Thunderbird RISC-V CPU: A Game-Changer with 1,536 Cores, Poised to Disrupt the HPC Market

InspireSemi’s innovative “supercomputer-on-a-chip” aims to provide computing with affordability and efficiency
July 1, 2024

InspireSemi, an Austin-based semiconductor company, is making waves with its latest breakthrough, the Thunderbird "supercomputer-on-a-chip." Featuring an impressive 1,536 64-bit superscalar RISC-V CPU cores, this new technology promises to offer a powerful and cost-effective alternative to traditional GPUs.

Thunderbird is designed to scale up to four chips per accelerator card, bringing the total number of cores to a staggering 6,144. These cards, which fit into a form factor similar to a GPU, can be integrated into existing server infrastructures, making them highly accessible for organizations without the budget for extensive new hardware.

InspireSemi’s approach leverages the open-source RISC-V architecture, which, combined with agnostic software compatibility, makes Thunderbird a versatile solution for various high-performance computing (HPC) workloads. Unlike custom platforms such as Nvidia's CUDA or AMD's ROCm, Thunderbird uses standard CPU programming models, minimizing the need for custom code when migrating existing HPC workloads.

Founder and CTO Andy Gray highlighted Thunderbird’s broad applicability across multiple critical industries: "Thunderbird accelerates many critical applications in important industries that other approaches do not, including life sciences, genomics, medical devices, climate change research, and applications that require deep simulation and modeling."

One of Thunderbird’s standout features is its power efficiency. InspireSemi claims that their processor achieves a 30-60% improvement in power efficiency compared to similar solutions. With performance metrics such as up to 24 FP64 TFLOPS at 50 GFLOPS/W, Thunderbird is positioned as a formidable competitor to Nvidia's Ampere A100, which offers 19.5 FP64 TFLOPS. Starting at $6,500, Thunderbird also presents a more affordable option.

The rise of open-source solutions is gaining momentum, driven by organizations like the Unified Acceleration Foundation (UXL), which aims to develop universal standards for vendor-agnostic hardware and software. Intel’s oneAPI framework is a significant contributor to this initiative, further propelling the adoption of open-source platforms.

As the industry continues to shift towards more open and flexible computing solutions, companies like InspireSemi are well-positioned to lead the charge. With Thunderbird, InspireSemi is not just offering a powerful computing tool but also paving the way for a more accessible and efficient future in high-performance computing.

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