Intel Officially Introduces Xeon Phi: Special-Purpose Many-Core Accelerator for Supercomputers

Intel Creates 118TFLOPS Development Cluster Powered by Xeon Phi "Knights Corner"

by Anton Shilov
06/19/2012 | 10:37 PM

At the International Supercomputing Conference, Intel Corp. made yet another announcement regarding its highly-anticipated many-core accelerator for high-performance computing (HPC) known as Knights Corner. The official name of the chip and PCI Express accelerators on its based will be Xeon Phi; moreover, the first HPC cluster on its base with 118TFLOPS performance is already up and running.


"As we add Intel Xeon Phi products to our portfolio, scientists, engineers and IT professionals will experience breakthrough levels of performance to effectively address challenges ranging from climate change to risk management. This is the next step of Intel's commitment to achieve exascale-level computation by 2018, and create a unique technology category that delivers unprecedented performance for today's highly parallel applications," said Raj Hazra, vice president and general manager of the technical computing at data center and connected systems group of Intel.

The first Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor, available in a PCIe form-factor, contains more than fifty x86-compatible cores and is capable of supporting over 8GB of GDDR5 memory. The architecture of Knights Corner features 512-bit wide SIMD support that improves performance by enabling multiple data elements to be processed with a single instruction. The new HPC solution delivers over 1TFLOPS of double precision compute performance per chip, as measured by the industry standard benchmark Linpack, which means that Intel's Xeon Phi is even a little bit faster than the Radeon HD 7970 graphics processing units with peak 0.947TFLOPS DP performance.

As expected, the first generation of Xeon Phi "Knights Corner" will be aimed at the so-called technical computing, future generations of Intel Xeon Phi products will also address enterprise datacenters and workstations. The initial production shipments of Xeon Phi "Knights Corner" are planned for the second half of 2012, which probably means late year shipments.

The Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor has strong industry support, with 44 manufacturers including Bull, Cray, Dell, HP, IBM, Inspur, SGI and NEC committed to including it in their system roadmaps. Intel believes that fundamental compatibility of the Xeon Phi with x86 architecture will ensure easier transition of appropriate software to the new platform.

At the ISC 2012 the world's largest chipmaker announced that the first Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor-based development cluster is up and running and ranked 150th on the Top 500 list, delivering 118TFLOPS of performance. One of the first companies to adopt Xeon Phi will be Cray, a major maker of supercomputers. One of the first actual deployments of the Knights Corner will be Stampede supercomputer in early 2013

"We are very excited to announce that our next-generation supercomputer code-named 'Cascade' will be available with the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, giving Cray customers the ability to push the limits of research and discovery. Our Cascade system will feature some of the most advanced and highly innovative HPC technologies ever put into a Cray supercomputer. Combining these features with industry-leading Intel Xeon processors and the new Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors will result in a very compelling system for HPC centers around the world," said Peg Williams, Cray's senior vice president of high performance computing systems.