Intel's most powerful chip ever packs emerging technologies

Intel's Knights Landing, which has new memory and interconnect technology, will be in supercomputers by the middle of 2015

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

Intel hopes to take hardware performance to the next level with its latest Xeon Phi supercomputing chip, which packs an array of new hardware technologies that could ultimately find their way to laptops and desktops.

The new Xeon Phi chip, also called Knights Landing, is Intel's largest and also most powerful chip package to date. It can deliver over 3 teraflops of peak performance, which is in the range of high-performance graphics chip used to crunch complex math calculations in the world's fastest computers.

The chip, which will be in supercomputers starting in the second half of next year, was detailed at the International Supercomputing Conference this week in Leipzig, Germany. Knights Landing includes a new form of stacked memory that could ultimately displace conventional DDR memory used in PCs and servers today. Also in the chip is new 'fabric' technology called OmniScale for faster internal and external data transfers.

When combined, the new technologies offer potent performance gains that resolves scaling issues as chips get smaller. The new chip is almost three times faster than its predecessor, called Knights Corner, which has up to 61 cores and can deliver peak performance of up to 1.2 teraflops.

"We are bringing technologies to market that are powerful in their capabilities and can be harnessed for real use," said Rajeeb Hazra, vice president of the Data Center Group at Intel.

The first supercomputer to use Knights Landing is Cori, which incorporates around 9,300 of the chips. It will be deployed by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Berkeley, California, in 2016. The system topology will be based on Cray's interconnect, much like Titan, the world's second fastest supercomputer deployed by the U.S. Department of Energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Ultimately, technologies in Knights Landing could pave the way for greater performance in smaller servers, Hazra said. In a distributed computing environment, those servers will be faster in delivering cloud services, Hazra said.

At the center of Knights Landing are processing cores based on the Silvermont architecture, which is being used in the latest Merrifield smartphone and Bay Trail tablet chips from the company. Knights Landing will be manufactured using Intel's latest 14-nanometer process, which helps reduce the size, boost speed and improve overall power efficiency of the chip.

The number of cores on the chip were not revealed, but Hazra said it will be more than predecessors contained.

"We will provide a significant bump in performance and that will be through a number of cores and process technology," Hazra said.

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