The Shape of Chips to Come

By Michael Feldman

September 24, 2009

In information technology, there’s really no such thing as a product unveiling anymore. Preparing the market for new hardware or software starts way before the products are rolled out. It’s a drawn-out process that begins with PowerPoint presentations and continues up to the point of commercial release. I call this process “unveilation” (literally, the process of unveiling). It can take years, and often does. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Given the complexity of technology, it’s almost a necessity.

Nowhere was the process more evident than at this week’s Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, where company execs extolled the virtues of chips yet born. There they talked up a number of Intel’s upcoming microprocessors, all in various stages of unveilation. Of particular interest to the HPC crowd was the first demo of the GPU-ish Larrabee chip, an update on Nehalem-EX, a refinement of the Westmere roadmap, and the invention of ultra-low-power Xeons for a new “microserver” category.

First up is Larrabee, a chip that is in the midst of an extended unveilation. After first floating the idea of a high performance CPU-GPU hybrid chip back in 2007, Intel finally gave Larrabee followers their first demo of the silicon in action. Although Intel insists that the initial product line is strictly geared for traditional graphics and visualization apps, I’m convinced that later versions, or derivatives thereof, are being groomed for general-purpose HPC. The first products are expected to hit the streets sometime next year.

I’ve embedded the Larrabee demo below, showing how the chip manages a real-time ray-tracing application.

 

Almost at the end of its unveilation is Nehalem-EX, the Xeon that will go into servers with four, eight, or more sockets. It’s really the first time Intel will have a competitive multi-socket (i.e., more than two sockets) offering for x86 servers. Nehalem-EX will support a number of RAS features, including Machine Check Architecture (MCA) recovery, which allows the CPU to right itself after encountering certain kinds of system errors. The chip is expected to go into production later this year.

Speaking about Nehalem-EX, Sean Maloney, executive VP and GM of the Intel Architecture Group, said they currently know of over 15 eight-socket-plus designs from eight different OEMs. Some of these are certainly destined for HPC duty. Even a relatively modest four-socket machine will support up to 64 threads and a terabyte of memory. A couple of these four-socket systems have already been announced: one, the IBM BladeCenter EX; the other, a Supermicro 1U box, specifically targeted at HPC. To hammer home the HPC theme, Maloney pointed to a quote from Mark Seager, who leads the advanced computing group at Lawrence Livermore National Lab: “Nehalem EX represents a new SMP on a chip super-node that can help us improve our predictive science and simulation capabilities without having to invest in a vast rewrite of our applications.”

Meanwhile, Westmere, the 32 nm shrink of the Nehalem microarchitecture, is apparently running a little ahead of schedule. The first Xeon implementation (for dual-socket servers), Westmere-EP, is poised for release in the first half of 2010. And in late 2010, Westmere-EX will take the hand-off from Nehalem-EX for multi-socket platforms. Due to the process shrink from 45 to 32 nanometers, lower power consumption and/or faster clocks are in the offing, although no specific numbers were forthcoming at IDF. For the security-minded, Intel has added Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) instructions to enable faster encryption and decryption.

One of the most interesting announcements had to do with the entry-level Xeon 3400 processors. Low-power variants of these chips have been developed for what Intel is calling “microservers” — essentially mini-blades, that take up much less space and use much less power than standard hardware. The chipmaker has come up with a reference design that packs 16 hot-swappable microserver modules into a 5U rack. Intel is planning to release a 45-watt version of the 3400 later this year and a 30-watt model in early 2010.

The idea, of course, is to be able to build extremely dense machines that are inexpensive to both buy and run. The big target market is large-scale and “containerized” datacenters, where power consumption and floor space are enemies number one and two, respectively.

If the performance per watt numbers prove out for technical computing apps, these low-power 3400s could make their way into HPC. SGI will almost certainly make these Intel parts available in its newly announced Octane III personal super and in its CloudRack product line. Other HPC OEMs may follow suit.

Keep in mind that these single-socket 3400 chips are the antithesis of the multi-socket EX Xeon processors. But sometimes scaling out is much more preferable than scaling up. (There are a number of HPC system architects who think hyperscale designs using extremely low-power CPUs is the way to go if exascale computing is to be made practical.) In any case, Intel is making sure it is covering all its bases, and is willing to let the applications decide which computing model fits best.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This