Intel shows off its Knights Corner one teraflop chip
Published: 16th Nov 2011 18:53:46
Intel has developed an accelerator chip capable of running at speeds of one teraflop, equal to one trillion calculations per second.
The firm showed off the chip, dubbed Knights Corner, on a test machine at a supercomputing conference in Seattle.
Computer power on this scale is used to solve a range of problems in fields such as weather forecasting, molecular modelling and car crash simulations.
The chip pits Intel against rival add-on processors from Nvidia and AMD.
The Knights Corner chip acts as a co-processor - taking over some of the most complicated tasks from the computers central processing unit (CPU).
It packs more than 50 cores - or individual processors - onto a single piece of silicon.
The chip offers "double precision" processing which allows a greater amount of numbers to be represented at one time - resulting in faster calculations and more accurate forecasts.
Intel says the accelerator is also the first server processor to support full integration of the PCI Express 3.0 specification. The technology allows data to be transferred at up to 32 gigabytes per second to compatible devices - twice the speed of the previous generation.
"Collecting, analysing and sharing large amounts of information is critical to today's science activities and requires new levels of processor performance and technologies designed precisely for this purpose," said Rajeeb Hazra, Intel's general manager of technical computing.
"Having this performance now in a single chip... is a milestone that will once again be etched into HPC [high performance computing] history," he added.
GPUs allow you to get results more quickly but will take longer to program so there is an interesting trade-off”
While Intel's co-processor relies on the same instruction set architecture as its popular x86 processors, its rivals are taking a different approach.
They are offering chips known as graphic processing units (GPUs) which are designed to carry out the calculations necessary to draw, colour and shade objects on the screen at high speed.
They specialise in processes that can be broken down into several parts, where the output of one calculation does not affect the input of another. This makes them particularly well suited for other tasks such as speech recognition and image processing.
However, developers need to code their software in order to take best advantage of GPUs.
By contrast, Intel's accelerator should be able to run existing applications at high speed without the need for further software development.
"Traditional supercomputers were built by putting thousands of processors in a room but in the last few years there has been a shift toward graphic processors," said Martin Reynolds, a vice president at research firm Gartner.
"GPUs allow you to get results more quickly but will take longer to program so there is an interesting trade-off," he said.
Nvidia specialises in GPUs and the chief executive of Intel's rival, Jen Hsun Huang, talked up the technology at the Seattle conference.
He said that GPUs were less complex than other processors, wasting less energy in moving data across chips.
Computer power has come a long way since 1997 when Intel showed off its first 1 teraflop supercomputer, which required nearly 10,000 Pentium II chips and filled 72 computing cabinets. It cost $55m.
In 2008, IBM's Roadrunner achieved petaflop speed, equal to 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
Ten years on, in 2018, Intel hopes it will be able to deliver so-called exascale-level performance, which is more than 100 times faster than currently available.
Nvidia is not so sure. In his keynote, Mr Hsun Huang said he did not think exascale performance would happen before 2035.
Mr Reynolds thinks that Intel has the edge over Nvidia, at least for the next few years.
"Intel has a technology advantage because its manufacturing processes can make transistors half the size and more efficient but Nvidia will catch up," he said.
At 05:47:55 in HeadlinesThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have paid their respects to Australia's war dead on the final day of their tour.
At 05:42:09 in HeadlinesIn the past 10 years, 80 people aged 21 and under have killed themselves in prison - the government has set up a review to find out why so many young people die in custody. One mother explains what it is like to have a child die behind bars.
At 05:06:03 in Headlines
At 04:53:55 in HeadlinesIran has cut state subsidies on petrol in a move that saw prices rise at midnight by up to 75%.
At 04:41:10 in HeadlinesUS President Barack Obama is in Seoul for a visit that comes amid concern that North Korea may be planning a fourth nuclear test.
At 04:36:51 in BusinessConsumer prices in Tokyo rose at their fastest pace in 22 years in April, surging 2.7% from a year earlier, according to preliminary data.
At 04:10:36 in Business
At 03:47:29 in HeadlinesBolivia's military chiefs have ordered the dismissal of more than 700 troops who have been protesting to demand better working conditions.
At 03:35:43 in WorldWith the World Cup just six weeks away and the Olympics on the horizon, social dysfunction in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro is subject to increasing international scrutiny.
At 03:28:21 in HeadlinesUK science is to get one of the biggest, most capable polar research vessels in the world.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2011. Intel shows off its Knights Corner one teraflop chip [Online] (Updated 16th Nov 2011)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/202886/Intel-shows-off-its-Knights-Corner-one-teraflop-chip [Accessed 25th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
A village museum in East Sussex will go up against Tate Britain and the new £35m Mary Rose Museum in a contest to be named the UK's museum of the year.
Four of the biggest technology firms - Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe - have settled a class action lawsuit alleging they conspired to hold down salaries.
As Liverpool fans dare to dream of a first league title in 24 years the club has revealed its own lofty plans for their ground.
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone made his first appearance in a Munich court on Thursday, accused of giving a £27.5m ($45m, 33m euros) bribe to a German banker.