Intel’s experimental 80-core TeraFLOP chip offers a hint at what types of technologies will facilitate exascale computing. The company predicts the first exaFLOP/s supercomputer to be operational by 2018. Image: Intel
the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), Kirk Skaugen, Intel
Corporation vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group,
outlined the company’s vision to achieve ExaFLOP/s performance by the
end of this decade. An ExaFLOP/s is quintillion computer operations per
second, hundreds times more than today’s fastest supercomputers.
exascale levels of performance in the future will not only require the
combined efforts of industry and governments, but also approaches being
pioneered by the Intel Many Integrated Core (Intel MIC1) Architecture,
according to Skaugen. Managing the explosive growth in the amount of
data shared across the Internet, finding solutions to climate change,
managing the growing costs of accessing resources such as oil and gas,
and a multitude of other challenges require increased amounts of
computing resources that only increasingly high-performing
supercomputers can address.
Intel Xeon processors are the clear architecture of choice for the
current TOP500 list of supercomputers, Intel is further expanding its
focus on high-performance computing by enabling the industry for the
next frontier with our Many Integrated Core architecture for petascale
and future exascale workloads,” said Skaugen.
Paving the way to exaflop performance
Intel’s relentless pursuit of Moore’s Law
— doubling the transistor density on microprocessors roughly every 2
years to increase functionality and performance while decreasing costs
— combined with an innovative, highly efficient software programming
model and extreme system scalability were noted by Skaugen as key
ingredients for crossing the threshold of petascale computing into a new
era of exascale computing. With this increase in performance, though,
comes a significant increase in power consumption.
an example, for today’s fastest supercomputer in China, the Tianhe-1A,
to achieve exascale performance, it would require more than 1.6 GW of
power – an amount large enough to supply electricity to 2 million homes –
thus presenting an energy efficiency challenge.
address this challenge, Intel and European researchers have established
three European labs with three main goals: to create a sustained
partner presence in Europe; take advantage of the growing relevance of
European high-performance computing (HPC) research; and exponentially
grow capabilities in computational science, engineering and strategic
computing. One of the technical goals of these labs is to create
simulation applications that begin to address the energy efficiency
challenges of moving to exascale performance.
said there is the potential for tremendous growth of the HPC market.
While supercomputers from the 1980s delivered gigaFLOP/s (billions of
floating point operations per second) performance, today’s most powerful
machines have increased this value by several million times. This, in
turn, has increased the demand for processors used in supercomputing. By
2013 Intel expects the top 100 supercomputers in the world to use one
million processors. By 2015 this number is expected to double, and is
forecasted to reach 8 million units by the end of the decade. The
performance of the TOP500 #1 system is estimated to reach 100 petaFLOP/s
in 2015 and break the barrier of 1 exaFLOP/s in 2018. By the end of the
decade the fastest system on Earth is forecasted to be able to provide
performance of more than 4 exaFLOP/s.
Intel MIC architecture software development momentum
Intel MIC architecture is a key addition to the company’s existing
products, including Intel Xeon processors, and expected to help lead the
industry into the era of exascale computing. The first Intel MIC
product, codenamed “Knights Corner,” is planned for production on
Intel’s 22-nanometer technology that featuring innovative 3-D Tri-Gate transistors.
Intel is currently shipping Intel MIC software development platforms,
codenamed “Knights Ferry,” to select development partners.
ISC, Intel and some of its partners including Forschungszentrum
Juelich, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ), CERN and Korea Institute
of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) showed early results of
their work with the “Knights Ferry” platform. The demonstrations showed
how Intel MIC architecture delivers both performance and software
programming model advantage of Intel MIC architecture enabled us to
quickly scale our applications running on Intel Xeon processors to the
Knights Ferry Software Development Platform,” said Prof. Arndt Bode of
the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre. “This workload was originally
developed and optimized for Intel Xeon processors but due to the
familiarity of the programming model we could optimize the code for the
Intel MIC architecture within hours and also achieved over 650 GFLOPS of
also showed server and workstation platforms from SGI, Dell, HP, IBM,
Colfax and Supermicro, all of which are working with Intel to plan
products based on “Knights Corner.”
recognizes the significance of inter-processor communications, power,
density and usability when architecting for exascale,” said SGI CTO Dr.
Eng Lim Goh. “The Intel MIC products will satisfy all four of these
priorities, especially with their anticipated increase in compute
density coupled with familiar X86 programming environment.”