Multi-CPU Hydra for saleBy Chris Williams. Published: 6th May 2003, 20:59:41 | Permalink | Printable
Simtec late Spring clean [Updated 15:17 8/5/2003]Hardware developer Simtec Electronics are currently running a clearance sale offering legacy Acorn upgrade kit at silly prices, reports iconbar.com. In amongst their 4MB upgrades and RISC OS 3 ROM sets, there lies their fabled Hydra multiprocessor card up for grabs.
Acorn RiscPCs can normally take up to two processors, usually a host ARM processor and a second non-ARM processor like an Intel 586 to run Microsoft Windows based software, for example. The Hydra card however allows up to four slave processors and one master "boot" processor to be fitted inside a RiscPC enabling true multi-processor technology. However, RISC OS doesn't natively support multiple processors so one would have to resort to using a multi-processor aware OS (like a BSD) that uses threading to assign running programs to free CPUs. Alternatively, third party software writers could use the Hydra API software interface to allow their RISC OS applications to take advantage of the Hydra's power.
However, soon after the Hydra card was revealed (we're talking around 1996), Acorn produced the StrongARM processor card which we gather outperformed the Hydra card plus the take up of Simtec's Hydra API wasn't very inspiring. None the less, if you've got a load of spare ARM710 cards then you could own and use (to some extent) a piece of Acorn era history. Simtec have listed the card as "no longer manufactured" and are attempting to flog their remaining stock.
Simtec have thrown us a couple of facts regarding the Hydra card that you might like to be aware of. They have just a few boards left incidentally.
The Hydra card's master CPU clot is StrongARM compatible, the slave slots can be StrongARM compatible if they're modified with obsolete components. The Hydra card software is not StrongARM compatible but Simtec assure us they'll be publishing on their website next week various related bits and pieces.
"Five ARM710 processors gave a four fold speed increase, slightly slower than a single StrongARM", explained Simtec in their email, with regard to the performance of the Hydra card. "Two StrongARMs gave a 1.8 times speed increase and that's as far as we tested it as we only had two SA cards at the time! It was unlikely that there would have been any significant benefit from a third CPU due to bus limitations."
Simtec Hydra website
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