First Details About Intel MIC Accelerators Emerge

Intel Knights Ferry: 32 Cores, 128 Threads, 1.2GHz

by Anton Shilov
08/08/2010 | 06:50 AM

Intel Corp. has disclosed specifications of its test vehicle for MIC (many Intel cores) accelerators aimed at servers. The first one - code-named Knights Ferry - seems to resemble infamous Larrabee graphics processing unit.


The Knights Ferry has 32 x86 cores clocked at 1.2GHz and featuring quad-HyperThreading. The unit, aimed at PCI Express 2.0 slots, has up to 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The chip itself has 8MB of shared L2 cache, which is quite intriguing by itself since highly-parallel applications do not require a large on-chip cache. Intel did not unveil raw computing performance of the Knights Ferry in GigaFLOPS or TeraFLOPS.

Given the fact that Knights Ferry is not a commercial product, but a development platform, it is unclear whether it has similar micro-architectural peculiarities as the Knights Corner chip, which is designed to be sold to interested parties. The Knights Corner will initially target high-performance computing segments, such as exploration, scientific research and financial or climate simulation. The chip will be made on Intel's 22nm manufacturing  process and will have more than 50 Intel processing cores on a single chip. Intel itself stresses that neither KF nor KC are set to substitute traditional server processors since "the vast majority of workloads will still run best on Intel Xeon processors", whereas Intel MIC architecture will help accelerate select highly parallel applications.

Intel insists that even for high performance computing (HPC) compatibility with x86 instruction set is a benefit. Meanwhile, both AMD and Nvidia are selling their proprietary FireStream and Tesla to HPC customers. Typically HPC applications are created for exact hardware, which is why compliancy with certain instruction sets is not that important.

The Intel MIC architecture is derived from several Intel projects, including "Larrabee" and such Intel Labs research projects as the Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC).