Intel unveils many-core Knights platform for HPC

Intel has announced a new Many Integrated Core architecture for its Knights Ferry and Knights Corner platforms

Intel has announced a new Many Integrated Core architecture for massively parallel processors, describing it as the industry's first general purpose many-core architecture.

Speaking at the International Supercomputer Conference in Hamburg on Monday, Intel vice president and head of datacentres Kirk Skaugen gave first details of Many Integrated Core (MIC) and its initial appearance in the Knights Ferry and Knights Corner platforms.

Skaugen said it combined standard Intel Architecture x86 programming and memory model with many cores and "many, many more" threads. It will be programmed using new versions of Intel's standard development tools and is intended for classic high-performance computing tasks in engineering, research and science. Evaluation hardware and software is already in use at Cern.

Knights Ferry, the first hardware based on MIC, is a co-processor 300w PCIe card with 32 cores running at up to 1.2GHz and managing 128 threads at four threads per core, with 8MB shared coherent cache and up to 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Described as a software development platform, it is intended to lead to Knights Corner, a new design due some time in 2011 or 2012.

The silicon in the Knights Ferry development plaform is code-named Aubrey Isle — a derivative of Larrabee — with a peak performance promised in excess of 1 teraflop. The cores are based on the Xeon 7500 architecture with 100 new MIC-specific instructions.

"Specific highly-parallel applications can see greater than two-times performance increase per watt when ported to Intel MIC," the company said in a statement. Sverre Jarp, technology officer of Cern Openlab, said in the statement that "the familiar hardware programming model allowed us to get [benchmark] software running much faster than expected."

Knights Corner is entirely new and fabricated at 22nm, with more than 50 cores. It brings in elements of Intel's Larrabee, single-chip cloud computing and the 80-core teraflops research chip, as well as its own innovations.

Unlike Knights Ferry, Knights Corner will not be heterogeneous — not all cores will be identical — but Intel is not saying anything more than "future MIC co-processors will include compute specific optimisations, features and capabilities."

"Commercial products based on Knights Corner are planned for the 22nm timeframe," an Intel spokesperson told ZDNet UK. "Research is continuing on both Larrabee and the Single-chip Cloud Computer".

"The Knights Ferry Software developers platform will be available under NDA to qualified developers in [the second half of 2010], and broadly in [the first half of 2011]. Updated versions of Intel's developer tools for Intel Xeon processors will be available under NDA to qualified developers starting [the second half of 2010], with support for Knights Ferry... The performance from Knights Ferry will be readily available without requiring redesign of existing applications," the company said in a statement.


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