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Intel brands its MIC boards as Xeon Phi

ISC 12 Still no concrete details
Mon Jun 18 2012, 13:30
Intel 4004 Microprocessor

CHIPMAKER Intel has tipped up at the International Supercomputing Conference with a new sticker for its Many Integrated Cores (MIC) architecture.

Intel has been talking about its MIC architecture for the best part of three years now, but the firm is finally getting close to a final product. It signalled this impending readiness by announcing that it will brand MIC as 'Xeon Phi'.

According to Intel, the Xeon Phi brand "evokes many concepts in science and nature", a statement which does a pretty poor job of avoiding the fact that Intel would not reveal any specific information about its first generation MIC board, codenamed Knights Corner.

All Intel would say is that the board will be known by its Xeon Phi branding, that it will have more than 50 cores, use a PCI-Express interface that has "eight or more" gigatransfers per second and have 8GB of GDDR5 memory or possibly more, according to Rajeeb Hazra, VP of Intel's Architecture Group. For a product that Intel claims will hit the market sometime this year - no specifics here either - there are a lot of basic specifications that remain up in the air.

It's a shame that Intel has left so many open questions regarding its first generation MIC architecture. The firm could land a considerable hit against rival accelerator vendors such as Nvidia by coming out with details of how much onboard memory its first generation Knights Corner accelerator will have, a major performance issue for GPGPUs.

Intel could land yet another blow on Nvidia and its all conquering Tesla cards, which powered three of the top five clusters in the November 2011 TOP500 list, by stating what double-precision floating point performance will be in the final product. Instead the industry is left to wonder whether Nvidia's upcoming Tesla K20 board, which the firm claims will offer three times the double-precision floating point performance of its previous generation Tesla M2090 part rated at 665 GFLOPs, will demolish Intel's first generation Xeon Phi board.

Intel said its MIC boards are already in a middling TOP500 system, highlighting that the product is real and can be deployed. No one can argue against Intel's cautious entry into the HPC accelerator market, however the firm could make life a lot easier for itself if it announced some solid specifications for MIC or Xeon Phi products, rather than relying on vague ballpark figures. µ


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