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Intel shows off Xeon E5 chips and a 1Tflops Knights Corner board

Goes for HPC while AMD looks to the cloud
Wed Nov 16 2011, 13:12

CHIPMAKER Intel showed off its Xeon E5 processor and showcased a working Knights Corner accelerator board at Supercomputing 2011.

Intel's Xeon E5 processor is the first by the firm to have a PCI-Express 3.0 controller built into the chip. The firm claimed it has shipped over 20,000 Xeon E5 processors to its high performance computing (HPC) customers, with 10 systems in the recently revised TOP500 using the latest Xeon chip.

Not surprisingly Intel talked up the performance of its Xeon E5 processors, citing its own figures for raw floating point processing performance and what it terms "real-HPC workloads". But surprisingly there was little talk of energy efficiency aside from the integration of the PCI-Express controller on-chip.

While Intel announced that it had shipped 20,000 Xeon E5 chips, the firm went on to say that widespread market availability will occur in the first half of 2012. Intel proudly said it had over 400 design wins for the Xeon E5.

Intel also showed off its Knights Corner accelerator board, which the firm hopes will lead to HPC users sticking to Intel for GPGPU-intensive workloads rather than heading off to Nvidia or AMD for Tesla or Firepro boards.

Intel claimed that the first-generation Knights Corner silicon can already exceed one Tflops in double precision floating point performance. The firm also confirmed yet again that its Knights Ferry board will have chips fabbed using the 22nm Tri-gate process node but was vague about other details, such as saying that the board will have "more than 50 cores", exactly what it said back at ISC 2011 in June.

Intel's Xeon E5 paper launch comes a day after AMD launched its Interlagos Bulldozer Opteron chips. What is interesting between the two firms is that while Intel chose to focus on the HPC angle for its Xeon E5 chips, AMD is promoting its latest Bulldozer architecture as being built for the cloud and energy efficiency.

AMD claimed that HPC is not what it's cracked up to be, saying the market represents only a small percentage of its overall sales. And in terms of raw sales, it is understandable to favour the cloud, various incarnations of which are forecast to grow substantially throughout this coming decade.

While Intel holds a vast market share lead over AMD, the Bulldozer Opteron chips should be available up to a quarter before Intel's latest Xeon silicon arrives, and with working servers from Acer, Dell and HP already having been shown off, there is a small window of opportunity for AMD to grow its market share. µ

 

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