Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

By Tiffany Trader

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016.

In his opening keynote, Naveen Rao, general manager of Intel’s artificial intelligence products group and former CEO of Nervana Systems, revealed that the first commercial Nervana product will debut in late 2019 and will be called NNP L-1000 (codename: Spring Crest). Intel anticipates that Spring Crest will offer 3-4x the training performance of its development product Lake Crest. Originally scheduled for availability last year, Lake Crest is being used as a software development vehicle to gather feedback from early partners. This is reminiscent of how Intel handled its first Phi product, Knights Ferry, a development prototype that was never widely available. And speaking of Phi, Knights Mill, the ML-specific Phi product that had a quiet launch late last year, was absent from Intel’s AI roapmap update, indicating it may be the end of the road for that line.

Another product we didn’t hear about was Knights Crest, the original intended follow-on to Lake Crest that was to integrate Intel Xeon processors with Nervana technology. The branding overlap with the Phi line was always confusing anyway, so if Intel let go of that codename it’s probably for the best, but it will be interesting to see if Intel reprises its plans for a joint Xeon-Nervana chip.

Source: screen shot of Intel video material, depicting Lake Crest architecture

Lake Crest incorporates 12 cores, each equipped with two math core units, delivering 40 peak tera-ops of performance and drawing less than 210 watts per device. Each chip sports 32 GB of high bandwidth memory (HBM2) and offers 2.4 terabits per second off-chip I/O bandwidth at less than 790 nanoseconds of latency.

High compute utilization and robust model parallelism were Intel’s primary goals in building its Nervana platform and the company believes that Lake Crest accomplishes both. According to Intel benchmarking, General Matrix to Matrix Multiplication (GEMM) operations have achieved more than 96 percent utilization, representing around 38 tera-ops of actual, not theoretical, performance on a single chip. The company further claims Lake Crest achieves 96.2 percent scaling efficiency. See Rao’s blog post for a drill-down on the details.

In that post, Rao writes: “Our industry talks a lot about maximum theoretical performance or TOP/s numbers; however, the reality is that much of that compute is meaningless unless the architecture has a memory subsystem capable of supporting high utilization of those compute elements. Additionally, much of the industry’s published performance data uses large square matrices that aren’t generally found in real-world neural networks.

“At Intel, we have focused on creating a balanced architecture for neural networks that also includes high chip-to-chip bandwidth at low latency. Initial performance benchmarks on our NNP family show strong competitive results in both utilization and interconnect.”

Rao also announced that Spring Crest will support bfloat16, an emerging numerical format being adopted for neural networks. “Essentially this is taking a 32-bit floating point number and culling it down to 16 bits, which allows you to use I/O more effectively because you’re moving half the bits around and allows you to build smaller multipliers and have more of them on a die and do it at lower power,” said Rao, adding that bfloat16 can achieve the same algorithmic performance and convergence as the larger 32-bit memory. Intel will initially introduce bfloat16 to its Nervana platform and says it plans to extend that support across its AI product lines.

As a final point, Rao teased that Intel is also working on a discrete accelerator for inference, and that more details would be forthcoming.

Intel’s animation of Nervana Lake Crest architecture:

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!

Nvidia Debuts Turing Architecture, Focusing on Real-Time Ray Tracing

August 16, 2018

From the SIGGRAPH professional graphics conference in Vancouver this week, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang unveiled Turing, the company's next-gen GPU platform that introduces new RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and new Tenso Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Coding: The Power of L(o)osing Control

August 16, 2018

Exascale roadmaps, exascale projects and exascale lobbyists ask, on-again-off-again, for a fundamental rewrite of major code building blocks. Otherwise, so they claim, codes will not scale up. Naturally, some exascale pr Read more…

By Tobias Weinzierl

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum technology used. One idea is to mitigate noisiness and perh Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Super Problem Solving

You might think that tackling the world’s toughest problems is a job only for superheroes, but at special places such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, supercomputers are the real heroes. Read more…

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak) supercomputer that will be used to advance early-stage R&a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum Read more…

By John Russell

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SLATE Update: Making Math Libraries Exascale-ready

August 9, 2018

Practically-speaking, achieving exascale computing requires enabling HPC software to effectively use accelerators – mostly GPUs at present – and that remain Read more…

By John Russell

Summertime in Washington: Some Unexpected Advanced Computing News

August 8, 2018

Summertime in Washington DC is known for its heat and humidity. That is why most people get away to either the mountains or the seashore and things slow down. H Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

NSF Invests $15 Million in Quantum STAQ

August 7, 2018

Quantum computing development is in full ascent as global backers aim to transcend the limitations of classical computing by leveraging the magical-seeming prop Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

By the Numbers: Cray Would Like Exascale to Be the Icing on the Cake

August 1, 2018

On its earnings call held for investors yesterday, Cray gave an accounting for its latest quarterly financials, offered future guidance and provided an update o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


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