February 24, 2005

AMD Donates Machines to C.U.

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AMD, a microprocessor manufacturing coproration, and Spansion, an AMD subsidiary, kicked off a second year of large donations to the University yesterday with 15 high-performance Opteron processor workstations and a quad Opteron server, as well as several large cash and server donations to two of the University’s unmanned vehicle teams.

Abeezer Tapia ’02, an electrical and computer engineering graduate and manager at AMD, told The Sun last year that AMD’s donation of $60,000 worth of computers was “the start of many donations yet to come.”

This year, he helped keep that promise with the ribbon cutting at the new Duffield Hall computer lab, which will primarily be used for computation-heavy work such as computer aided design, biological calculations, optics simulations and interdisciplinary work, according to Prof. Sandip Tiwari Ph.D. ’80, electrical and computer engineering.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building, Tiwari stressed the importance of computational power as Cornell looked to stay competitive.

“As you know, Cornell has been through a big change … with Duffield Hall,” he said. He said the gifts allowed Cornell to make that change a competitive advantage, especially as it put a new focus on nanotechnology and nanofabrication.

“These gifts are really, really crucial in a university,” he said.

He added that, with the advanced computers, students would only be limited by their own ability instead of technological restraint.

Shijie Yang, computer operations manager, said that the quad server would probably be used for video processing purposes.

The Opteron computers are at the forefront of computer chip technology, as they run 64-bit processors, while most “modern” computers have only 32-bit processors. As a base of comparison, a 32-bit processor can utilize up to about 4 gigabytes of RAM, while a 64-bit processor can address a much larger 1,000 gigabytes of RAM. Although most 64-bit computers will use much less than this amount of RAM, the donated Opterons complete complex tasks almost instantaneously. Such tasks would typically take minutes or hours to complete on less advanced systems.

The computers are so advanced, however, that they currently are not utilizing much of their power. They currently run Windows XP, which runs natively as a 32-bit system, and so users will notice only moderate improvements in software performance. So far, for the PC, only a few Linux systems and some beta versions of Windows work with full performance on 64-bit systems.

James Pak MEng ’91, a director of yield and product engineering with AMD, said that the donations were “a testimony to AMD’s commitment to its relationship with Cornell.” “We hope this will help students and researchers at Cornell maintain their status as premier researchers in the world,” he said.

Tapia said that his company “was just happy to have this strong relationship with Cornell.” Cornell’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) teams also received donations from AMD and Spansion in seperate ceremonies in Duffield Hall.

Cornell’s DARPA Grand Challenge team, which is busy preparing a Hummer-sized vehicle to cross a 175-mile desert stretch unaided, received a $1,400 check as well as $12,500 in advanced servers for the vehicle.

Brian Schimpf ’06, an artificial intelligence programmer for the team, said he was very happy with the donations. He said the team could put the advanced processors to good use as they tried advanced techniques that few other teams would even consider.

The team wants to use the extra processing power to process information from steroscopic cameras, creating a real-time 3-dimensional view for the unmanned vehicle to plan its route. He also said the team wants to use the processing power to “combine” the different “senses” of the robot to form a more complete picture of the vehicle’s surroundings as it navigates ditches, tunnels, and bridges on the national course during the Oct. 8 competition with approximately 200 other teams.

One of those teams is Carnegie Mellon, which Shimpf said is the team’s main competition. The Cornell/Carnegie rivarly is also about AMD’s pride, too, Shimpf and Werner explained, as the Carnegie Mellon team decided to go with Intel processors. Intel is AMD’s chief competitior.

“They’re kinda an Intel team,” Shimpf said. “But we weren’t really impressed with what Intel had to offer.”

“[Intel processors] just can’t do the computations,” he said.

Ryan Stenson grad, the AUV team leader, accepted a check for $2,500 for his group. He said that AMD was the largest corporate sponsor of the group, and he looked to strengthening the bonds between AMD and the AUV program. He said the check would go to the group’s general fund.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer