[libre-riscv-dev] Who Buys Talos Workstations?

Immanuel, Yehowshua U yimmanuel3 at gatech.edu
Mon Apr 6 07:46:18 BST 2020

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been having some meetings at the startup school Create-X and one of the topics that comes up frequently concerns target markets, who else has had success in our space, and competitors.

One question I’ve been looking into is just how successful is FOSS/libre hardware, and who needs it?
I’ll add my findings to the wiki later.

Fantastic Interview with RaptorCS I found on the wiki resources page that talks about who needs open auditable systems that RaptorCS provides below:


Main benefits of POWER that I was able to glean:
 - POWER is really good at handling behemoth amounts of IO - far superior to x86
 - POWER works well with OpenCAPI, delivering somewhere near 5 - 10x speedup relative to PCIE Gen4
 - According to Raptor, IBM takes feedback on POWER ISA quite seriously and works hard to improve for next spec
 - Very easy to add data hungry accelerator to POWER systems, again, because of OpenCapi
 - RaptorCS customers tend to desire direct control over the on-mobo BMC, which RaptorCS provides through FOSS firmware - can guarantee physical hardware access not necessarily equal to root access
 - 99% of Debian APT supported - AMD ROCM works out of the box.

After some digging around, RaptorCS solutions are not necessarily too expensive, the hardware is enterprise grade and falls in that price bracket. Also, included in that higher price tag is the peace of mind knowing that your system is fully auditable.

I will add this information to the resources section soon.

# Commodity POWER hardware available:

You can buy a Raptor Blackbird 4-core POWER9 system for $1468. While this seems a bit expensive compared to a comparable high end i7 intel system, you get access to the processor data sheet, pinouts, and mobo. All firmware, etc. Also, OpenCAPI seems to be a big reason alone customers are wiling to pay the extra price tag.

Lastly, any intel or AMD system integrator using an x86/64 chip is not even allowed to provide mobs schematics under NDA alone.

You can also by the T2080 chip from digikey for $273. It comes with a full data sheet and everything.
I couldn’t find any benchmarks, but from the spec sheet, I’d hazard performance is comparable to a mid end i5 processor. Makes sense that this chip see notable use in the auto and defense industry as it has respectable DSP capabilities. Its only viable ARM competitor is Nvidia Jetson which is notably cheaper. System integration with T2080 seems notably easier however as it is has no NDAs.

RaptorCS clearly demonstrates that a FOSS hardware business model is economically feasible. Encouraging news for us!


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