SGI wants Intel for super supercomputer

Intel’s reign in the supercomputer sector shows no signs of slowing down.

Silicon Graphics International (SGI) has said that it will use the company’s chips to help it build an extra speedy supercomputer by 2018. It will use specially designed accelerator chips made by Intel to build the beast, which it wants to be 500 times faster than the most powerful today.

The ambitious plans were announced by Eng Lim Goh, SGI’s chief technology officer, who said the company would marry Intel’s many integrated core chips (MIC), which run millions of parallel threads by mixing x86 cores and others, with Xeon server CPUs.

He said this was because the standard x86 CPUs need a boost and the MIC chip, which has 32 cores and works by pairing both vector processing units with standard CPU cores, is the perfect way to do this.

If the marriage works the pair think we could see a creation 500 times speedier than today’s fastest supercomputers, which currently hit the 2.5 petaflops mark. Then again, who knows what we’ll have by 2018.

According to Intel, its first MIC product, codenamed “Knight’s Corner” is planned for production on Intel’s 22-nanometer technology featuring 3D Tri-Gate transistors. 

It’s shipping “Knights Ferry” chips to a few preselected development partners.

However, SGI and Intel are not the only companies aiming for top speeds – with IBM looking at technology which will see speeds boosted to 1000 petaflops, by 2020.

That said, Intel holds the title for powering 80 percent of the world’s fastest computers and it doesn’t look set to stop anytime soon. ARM claims it wants in, too.

It has announced that it wants to rule the market further by achieving ExaFLOP/s performance by 2020.

An ExaFLOP/s is quintillion computer operations per second. Quite fast, really.

The plan was announced at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) by Kirk Skaugen, Intel Corporation vice president and general manager of the Data Centre group. He said in order to make this a reality the company needed the help of  the rest of the industry and governments.

His plans will help manage the growth in the amount of data shared across the internet, as well as helping boffins find answers to things like climate change, he says.
China’s Tianhe-1A, the second fastest supercomputer in the world, would need more than 1.6 GW of power – an amount large enough to supply electricity to 2 million homes –  to achieve exascale performance.

Although he pointed out that this would cause great energy worries, he said Intel had been working with European researchers to address energy efficiency challenges.
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.

In 2015 we could apparently see a performance of 100 PetaFLOP/s in 2015 and break the barrier of 1 ExaFLOP/s in 2018.