Intel plans 'superchip' for high-performance computing

Intel's new superchip will use InfiniBand interconnect technology for I/O

Intel is investing in the development of a "superchip" for high-performance computing systems that the company hopes will raise its supercomputing profile.

The superchip is aimed at providing high-bandwidth throughput with the use of InfiniBand interconnect technology, said Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager for the datacenter and connected systems group, this week.

InfiniBand is low-latency interconnect technology that links servers and storage units in data centers. The technology can provide low-latency communication between processors and servers in data centers while keeping CPU utilization rates low.

Bryant did not detail how InfiniBand technology will be used alongside the superchip. However, the product could fit right into Intel's existing range of supercomputing offerings, which include Xeon server CPUs and the MIC (many-integrates cores) co-processor, which mixes standard x86 cores with specialized cores to boost HPC tasks.

Intel's latest Xeon E5 and a 50-core MIC chip, codenamed Knights Corner, are being paired in a supercomputer called Stampede, which is scheduled for deployment next year at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas. The supercomputer will deliver peak performance of 10 petaflops (or 10,000 trillion operations per second).

High-bandwidth fabric will be very important in high-performance systems going into the future, Bryant said.

The superchip plan follow Intel's announcement in January to buy parts of Qlogic's InfiniBand business, which the chip maker said would help push internal bandwidth inside systems as processor performance increases and server performance scales up. The acquisition was also a step ahead in the effort to provide high-performance storage and server bandwidth in the race to exaflop computing.

The InfiniBand interconnect was originally envisioned to replace protocols like Fibre Channel and Ethernet, but has been slow in gaining momentum, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

"Integrating InifiniBand into a chip would make it easier to construct high-performance systems with low latency. You could see where there could be some advantages," Brookwood said.

The integration of InfiniBand in future MIC chips could give Intel a way to create dense fabric for high-performance interconnects in supercomputers.

"But when you create this fabric, the issue is how is software going to work," Brookwood said.

An Intel spokesman did not provide further information on the chips, saying the company has not yet made specific disclosures about future InifiniBand-related implementations.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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