Intel Debuts Knights Corner, Adds to Sandy Bridge at SC ’11
Intel, my hosts here at the SC ’11 conference in Seattle, used the first day of the event to make a pair of announcements that shows the chip giant is always looking to the future. First, Intel released the first details of Knights Corner, a 50-plus core chip that can deliver a consistent 1 teraflop of double-precision floating-point precision. And second, Intel released the details of a new line of Sandy Bridge-compatible motherboards designed for the reseller channel.
SC ’11 is a high-performance computing (HPC) show first, foremost and forever, so channel insights were few and far-between. All the same, when Rajeeb Hazra, general manager of Intel Technical Computing Group, officially unveiled Knights Corner by holding up an actual chip that exists, it was hard not to get a little excited.
It’s not so much that this hasn’t been a long time coming: Knights Corner is based on the Intel Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture, which has been demoed intermittently as far back as 2009.
But this new chip, which in a live demo delivered the promised 1 TFLOP of performance, is the first time Intel MIC will be used to power a full product release — in this case, a 22-nanometer chip that fits into one PCI Express slot and brings as much computing power as 1997’s beloved ASCI Red supercomputer. Moreover, Hazra hyped Knights Corner’s ability to run essentially any standard x86 app with only minor modifications.
Intel is characteristically playing its cards close to its chest. We don’t know when it’ll be released, how much it’ll cost, its power consumption, or even how many cores it has (well, we know it’s more than 50). But what we do know is that even if it’s not really of much value to the channel right this second, this very well may be a sign of some very, very cool things to come. For now, it will be used mainly for trivial tasks such as mapping proteins and modeling weather systems.
In more channel-related news, Lisa Graff, head of Intel’s Enterprise Platform and Services Division (EPSD), took some time in the spotlight for a rapid-fire briefing on what her team’s been up to in 2011 and what’s coming next: specifically, a lineup of server motherboards supporting the future Intel Xeon E5 “Sandy Bridge” processor family and designed for VARs and system builders.
I’m loathe to go into too much detail. Graff’s briefing only really skimmed the surface, and promised documents from Intel giving a deeper dive haven’t yet materialized. The VAR Guy will have a full update as soon as we know more.
But in the meanwhile, the quick version is this: This new line of Intel Server Products is designed to serve the energy efficiency and performance needs of four key segments: HPC, cloud computing/data center, storage and SMB. Combined with a widened range of services offerings for Intel partners, EPSD under Graff’s leadership is aiming to help partners solve customer problems with the next generation of the company’s silicon.
Needless to say, keep watching The VAR Guy for more about Intel’s strategy.