CHIPMAKER Intel has admitted that supercomputers will need twice the ramp up of computing power that Moore's Law alone will be able to deliver within the next few years.
Kirk Skaugen, VP of Intel's architecture group made the remark while talking to journalists at the International Supercomputing Conference 2011 (ISC 11) in Hamburg, promoting Chipzilla's Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture. Skaugen said that Intel's MIC architecture is the only way that Intel can hit exascale performance by 2018, however he added that MIC will deliver more than just more computing power.
Intel announced its MIC architecture last year at ISC, and today the firm announced that in 2012 Intel will fab its next generation Knights Corner MIC chip on its 22nm tri-gate process node. That process, according to Skaugen, means there is "no more end of life for Moore's Law". He added that Intel will use its tri-gate for 14nm and smaller process nodes, which grates against what other Intel employees have said, claiming that something new will be required to go below 14nm.
Skaugen's decision to mention tri-gate was meant to illustrate how Intel will hit its goal of producing teraflop nodes that will be part of an exascale supercomputer chip that uses just 20W. Skaugen claims that a one teraflop node presently consumes 5KW. However, he still wouldn't be drawn on just how many cores Intel's Knights Corner chip will have at launch, simply saying that it will be more than 50 cores, meaning that it is likely to be determined by the overall system power requirements rather than by engineering limitations.
Intel has been relatively quiet in the HPC market in the last few years. Although the Top 500 list still has many Xeon clusters, the talk has been around GPGPUs from AMD and Nvidia. Intel on the other hand is hoping that, by using relatively familiar programming languages such as C++ and Fortran, adding pragmas to allow compilers to do the hard work is the way it will attract customers, with Skaugen saying that Intel wants to "democratise highly parallel computing".
The admission that Moore's Law is not enough to remain competitive in the HPC market is perhaps a gratifying statement for AMD, which last week showed off its consumer-oriented A-series Llano accelerated processor unit (APU). At the launch event AMD told The INQUIRER that it will release something similar to Llano and Intel's Knights Corner for servers in 2012.
Skaugen, who leads Intel's datacenter chip engineering, said that the company aims to double the number of servers in use within the next five years. He also added that Intel will launch Xeons based on the Sandy Bridge core by the end of 2011.
Intel is playing the ease of programming and lower power consumption cards in order to win back lost ground in the HPC market. AMD can try to do something similar with its Bulldozer APU chips, but Nvidia might be the one that has the most reason to worry. µ