Intel wins sockets in 10PFLOPs supercomputer

September 23, 2011 // By Rick Merritt
Intel has landed the first major design win for its Many Integrated Core (MIC) processor in a supercomputer expected to hit 10 petaflops when completed in early 2013. The system is expected to surpass the world's current fastest computer that delivers eight PFLOPs using Fujitsu Sparc processors.

A supercomputing center at The University of Texas at Austin announced it will use a $27.5 grant under the Extreme Digital program of the National Science Foundation to help fund the effort. The so-called Stampede system ultimately will cost more than $50 million over four years.

The system will be based on thousands of dual-core Dell servers using the Sandy Bridge version of Intel's eight-core Xeon E5 processors. Stampede also will use thousands of the Intel MIC chips, known by the code name Knights Corner, which will provide 80 percent of the systems performance, Intel said.

The Texas center expects to upgrade Stampede with future generations of Intel MIC processors to drive peak performance to at least 15 petaflops.

Intel's MIC chips had their origin in an Intel effort to create the Larabbe graphics processors based on an array of x86 cores. Intel nixed its graphics plans but repurposed the project as a high-performance computing chip to rival Nvidia and AMD parts used in other supercomputers.

The Texas center said the use of the x86 instruction set both the Xeon and MIC chips will "simplify the task of porting and optimizing applications on Stampede."

The system is not built solely from Intel parts. Nvidia won 128 sockets in Stampede for a next-generation chip to handle remote visualization jobs.

The latest supercomputers are increasingly relying on a mix of many core graphics processors working in tandem with general purpose CPUs.

Altogether, Stampede will have 272 terabytes of total memory, and 14 petabytes of disk storage. It will be based on a InfiniBand FDR 56Gb/s network.

\The system will become part of a network of more than a dozen high-end computers created by the NSF program. "Many researchers will leverage Stampede not only for massive computational calculations, but for all of their scientific computing, including visualization, data analysis, and data-intensive computing," said Jay Boisseau, director of the supercomputer center, speaking in a