by Anton Shilov
09/13/2010 | 10:15 PM
At the Intel Developer Forum the company has demonstrated real-time ray tracing demo running on four code-named Knights Ferry accelerators. The demo is very advanced in terms of visual quality, but necessity to use four accelerators for its rendering in 1280x720 resolution means that neither algorithm nor hardware is currently ready for mass market.
The up-to-date Wolfenstein game is rendered through a real-time ray tracer with several special effects that haven’t been possible before in games with such an accuracy. In particular, Intel claims that a highly-detailed chandelier model made of glass with around one million triangles can be physically correctly rendered only using a new ray tracing algorithm due t massive amount of reflections and refractions. In addition, Intel claims that a wall with twelve screens that each show a different location of the level can also take massive advantage of ray tracing technology.
The images are rendered from a "cloud" of four servers with Inte's Knights Ferry platform inside. As ray tracing is a highly parallel application it can therefore take very good benefit of the many cores that are in a single chip on the Knights Ferry board. Once a chip in one of the servers has finished calculating a new frame for the game it will send it over the network to a thin client. At IDF Intel demonstrated how four servers rendered Wolfenstein game in 1280x720 resolution.
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.