At the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Intel outlined a plan to use its MIC foundation to provide widespread exascale-type computing for parallel applications within nine years.
As mind-boggling as it
seems, it's only a matter of several years before enterprises will be dealing
with exabyte-level data stores.
That's correct: storage of billions of billions of bytes in on-site disks and in the cloud.
High-definition video and data cargo from scientific research projects, health
care imaging, and oil and gas exploration data stores are leading the way here.
Intel, ever the
forward-looking IT pioneer, is committed to helping supply the processing power
to handle all this new data and satisfy its shareholders at the same time. A
year ago, it commissioned a division dedicated to MIC (Many Integrated Core)
exascale supercomputing architecture. The so-designated "Knights Corner"
processor, introduced in June 2010 and planned for the company's upcoming
22-nanometer chip line, is the foundation
for this initiative
. It is expected to become available next year.
On June 20 at the ISC (International
Supercomputing Conference) in Hamburg, Germany, Intel outlined a plan to use
Knights Corner and its MIC foundation to provide widespread exascale-type
computing for parallel applications within nine years.
Using the MIC architecture,
Intel believes it can empower supercomputers-and eventually enterprise servers-to
carry out as many as quintillions (a quintillion is 1,000 raised to the power
of six, or a cardinal number 10^18) of computer operations per second. This is
hundreds of times faster than current supercomputers can move.
And today's machines already
move pretty darn fast.
Processing Huge Quantities of Data
The MIC architecture enables
organizations to process huge quantities of data, which then can be used to
investigate causes of (and solutions for) climate change, identify more
efficient fossil fuels inside the Earth's crust, and conduct human genome
research, among others.
Intel is currently shipping
Intel MIC software-development platforms, internally called Knights Ferry, to
selected development partners. This week at ISC, Intel and some of those
partners-including Forschungszentrum Juelich, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre,
Switzerland's CERN and Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information-are
showing early results of their work using the platform. The demonstrations
showed how Intel MIC architecture delivers both high performance and software
One of the major development
advantages of Knights Corner is that the MIC already is a familiar programming
environment for anyone who is used to working with Xeon x86. Intel has
intentionally made these two environments cross over in nature.
"If you can program
Xeon, you can program a MIC microprocessor, because it uses the same tools, the
same compilers and the same programming model that is used for x86 today,"
Anthony Neal-Graves, vice president of Intel Architecture Group, told listeners
on a conference call.
"The programming model
advantage of Intel's MIC architecture enabled us to quickly scale our
applications running on Intel Xeon processors to the Knights Ferry Software Development
Platform," said Professor Arndt Bode of the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre.
"This workload was
originally developed and optimized for Intel Xeon processors, but due to the
familiarity of the programming model, we could optimize the code for the Intel
MIC architecture within hours and also achieved over 650 GFLOPS of
Energy Efficiency Also a Key Goal
Intel, as well as its chief competitor, AMD, have been proactive in energy conservation. Intel recently demonstrated its cool-running 3D Tri-gate transistors
last month, and Hewlett-Packard demonstrated equally cool-running AMD chips in its latest notebook computers
-- devices that emitted little no heat whatsoever after hours of operation.
Intel is building energy efficiency into the MIC. The new Tri-gate transistors will make a big difference in this area.
"This is really about delivering performance or flops within a manageable power budget, that's the key issue that we're facing in this space," Neal-Graves said on the conference call.
Neal-Graves said that Intel has partnered with European researchers to run three new labs dedicated to creating simulation applications that start to address the energy efficiency challenges of moving to exascale performance.
supercomputers make up 77 percent of the latest TOP 500 list of supercomputers and
nearly 90 percent of all new systems in 2011, according to researcher IDC.