Reaching 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 MIC) Architecture, according to Skaugen.
"While 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.
Intel's 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 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.
As 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.
To 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.
Skaugen 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
Relative to the multi-core Intel Xeon processors, Intel MIC Architecture has many more smaller cores, many more hardware threads, and wider vector units. This is ideal for achieving higher aggregate performance for highly parallel applications.
The 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 3-D Tri-Gate transistors. Intel is currently shipping Intel MIC software development platforms, codenamed '"Knights Ferry," to select development partners.
As developers embrace high degrees of parallelism (instruction, data, task, vector, thread, cluster, etc.), important and popular programming models for Intel Architecture processors extend to Intel MIC Architecture without rethinking the entire problem. The same techniques that deliver performance on Intel processors - scaling applications to cores and threads, blocking data for hierarchical memory and caches, and effective use of SIMD - also apply to maximizing performance on Intel MIC Architecture. With greater reuse of parallel CPU code, software companies and IT departments benefit from creating and maintaining a single code base binary and not having to re-train developers on proprietary programming models associated with accelerators.
Knights Ferry Software Development Platform
- Up to 32 cores/128 threads
- 512b SIMD support
- Fully coherent cache
- Up to 2GB GDDR5 memory
- Latest Intel SW Developer Products
At 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 programmability advantages.
"The 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 performance."
Intel 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."