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Intel pushes 50-core chip, mulls exascale computing

Agam Shah | Nov. 16, 2011
Intel is drumming up support for its latest 50-core Knights Corner and Xeon E5 server chips, which are key elements in the company's plans to scale performance.

Nvidia, however, said it is easy to accelerate GPUs using directives, which are "hints" that programmers provide to the compiler to identify areas of code to accelerate, a company spokesman said. The compiler does the work of mapping the computation on to the accelerator, in the process eliminating the need for programmers to modify or adapt underlying code. Nvidia this week announced OpenACC, an open industry standard for directives-based programming, which is backed by companies including supercomputer maker Cray.

But Intel's Curley said the programming principals for MIC architecture are around open standards and high-level abstract programming. The company is making investments in software programming tools so that the code maps well to parallelism.

Intel also said its Knights Corner chip is the first single chip to achieve 1 teraflop of double-precision performance, which will provide more accurate results on technical, scientific and mathematical calculations.

"It's a major breakthrough in performance," Curley said.

Intel also used SC11 to push its new Xeon E5 server chip, which is being used in 10 of the Top500 supercomputers, the company said. The E5 chips are the fastest-ramping server chips in Intel's history, and the company has 400 design wins around the processor, Curley said.

The chip enables many new technologies to boost server performance. The chip is the first to integrate support for PCI-Express 3.0, which will boost on-board bandwidth to scale server performance. The bus standard can transfer data at speeds of 8 gigatransfers per second, a 60 percent improvement over PCI-Express 2.0, which is currently found in servers.

Silicon Graphics said it would include E5 chips in its upcoming blade servers based on the ICE X architecture. The blade is based on a rack-level design and can scale to hundreds of server nodes for high-performance computing. SGI's ICE servers will start shipping later this quarter. Supermicro also showed the X9 server motherboards for eight-core E5 processors.

Servers with E5 chips will be widely available in the first half of next year, an Intel spokesman said.

The E5 chip will compete with Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron 6200 chip, which includes up to 16 cores. AMD's chip was announced earlier this week.


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