The International Supercomputing Conference is taking place in Hamburg, Germany this week, and Intel is there drumming up hype for its upcoming many-integrated-core (MIC) products. As you might already know, Intel's MIC efforts were born out of the ashes of the failed Larrabee project. Intel is shipping Knights Ferry MIC prototypes—essentially Larrabee silicon repurporsed for high-performance computing—to select partners in preparation for the debut of its first real MIC product, Knights Corner. Intel will base Knights Corner on the same 22-nm fab process as its next-gen Ivy Bridge microprocessors.
Intel says some of its partners at the conference showed early performance results obtained with Knights Ferry. Those partners include Forschungszentrum Juelich, CERN, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, and the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, which contributed a juicy quote for the press release:
“The programming model advantage of Intel MIC architecture enabled us to quickly scale our applications running on Intel Xeon processors to the Knights Ferry Software Development Platform,” said Prof. 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 performance.”
The appeal of Knights Ferry and Knights Corner is that they're based on Intel's existing x86 architecture—unlike GPU computing gear from AMD and Nvidia.
According to HPC Wire, Intel's Anthony Neal-Graves revealed more details during a press briefing last week. Reportedly, the 32-core Knights Ferry development prototype achieves a teraFLOP of floating-point computing performance in the SGEMM benchmark. HPC Wire expects Knights Corner to pack 50 or more cores when it arrives next year, which should allow it to "easily double" that level performance. (For what it's worth, the site notes that Nvidia's fastest Tesla product "probably" hits around 800-900 gigaFLOPS in the same benchmark, while AMD's quickest FireStream achieves "perhaps twice that.")
Intel says it's working with SGI, Dell, HP, IBM, Colfax and Supermicro to deliver servers based on Knights Corner hardware. We can't confidently predict how things will shake out between Knights Ferry and next-gen AMD and Nvidia GPUs, but at the very least, Intel looks set to give the Tesla and FireStream lines some real competition.