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!

Portugal Launches Its First Supercomputer

July 12, 2019

Portugal has officially inaugurated its first-ever supercomputer. The unassumingly named “Bob” supercomputer is housed in the Minho Advanced Computer Center (MACC) at the University of Minho.  Bob was announced i Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in HPC Research: Traffic Simulation, Performance Variations, Scheduling & More

July 11, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Expands DGX-Ready AI Program to 19 Countries

July 11, 2019

Nvidia’s DGX-Ready Data Center Program, announced in January and designed to provide colo and public cloud-like options to access the company’s GPU-powered servers for AI workloads, has expanded the program beyond th Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

For decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

How AI Powers Up Data Management and Analytics

Companies are making more decisions based on data. However, the ability to intelligently process the growing volume of data is a bottleneck to extracting actionable insights. Read more…

Quantum Start-up Rigetti Acquires QxBranch; Bolsters App Dev Capability

July 11, 2019

Quantum startup Rigetti Computing announced today it acquired QxBranch, a quantum computing and data analytics software startup. The latest move marks what has been a busy year for Rigetti. Roughly one year ago, it annou Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Expands DGX-Ready AI Program to 19 Countries

July 11, 2019

Nvidia’s DGX-Ready Data Center Program, announced in January and designed to provide colo and public cloud-like options to access the company’s GPU-powered Read more…

By Doug Black

Argonne Team Makes Record Globus File Transfer

July 10, 2019

A team of scientists at Argonne National Laboratory has broken a data transfer record by moving a staggering 2.9 petabytes of data for a research project.  The data – from three large cosmological simulations – was generated and stored on the Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia, Google Tie in Second MLPerf Training ‘At-Scale’ Round

July 10, 2019

Results for the second round of the AI benchmarking suite known as MLPerf were published today with Google Cloud and Nvidia each picking up three wins in the at Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Applied Materials Embedding New Memory Technologies in Chips

July 9, 2019

Applied Materials, the $17 billion Santa Clara-based materials engineering company for the semiconductor industry, today announced manufacturing systems enablin Read more…

By Doug Black

ISC19 Cluster Competition: HPCC Deep Dive

July 7, 2019

The biggest benchmark the student warriors tackled during the ISC19 Student Cluster Competition was the colossal HPC Challenge. This is a collection of benchmar Read more…

By Dan Olds

OLCF Bids Farewell to Its Titan Supercomputer

July 4, 2019

After seven years of faithful service, and a long reign as the United States' fastest supercomputer, the Cray XK7-based Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Lea Read more…

By Staff report

Quantum Bits: Neven’s Law (Who Asked for That), D-Wave’s Steady Push, IBM’s Li-O2- Simulation

July 3, 2019

Quantum computing’s (QC) many-faceted R&D train keeps slogging ahead and recently Japan is taking a leading role. Yesterday D-Wave Systems announced it ha Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Partners with Baidu on Neural Network Training Chip

July 2, 2019

A pillar of Intel’s emerging AI product portfolio, its upcoming Nervana Neural Network Processor for training (NNP-T), will be a collaborative development eff Read more…

By Doug Black

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This