A year and a half has passed since Intel redirected its Larrabee effort to produce a competitive desktop GPU. The Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture was repurposed for high-performance computing—think room-filling supercomputers rather than the overclocked gaming box sitting under your desk. Dubbed Knights Corner, this new effort finally showed its face this week at the SC11 supercomputing conference.
Intel didn't reveal many new details about the chip at the show. According to ComputerWorld, though, Intel Technical Computing General Manager Rajeeb Hazra showed off actual silicon. The basics haven't changed: Knights Corner features "more than 50" cores (Intel won't say exactly how many), and it's manufactured using cutting-edge 22-nm process technology, complete with 3D transistors. Intel isn't talking clock speeds or power consumption, but it says that a single Knights Corner chip can push one teraflop.
While it's unclear when Knights Corner will become available, the Texas Advanced Computing Center has reportedly ordered some for a facility that's scheduled to be constructed starting next year. Knights Corner will reportedly be sold as a PCI Express add-in card, making it easy to plug into existing servers. That PCIe interface puts Knights Corner in direct competition with GPU-based compute platforms from AMD and Nvidia. Intel contends that its architecture, which has native support for the x86 instruction set, will make it easier for developers to port over applications.