Intel launches 72-core Knights Landing Xeon Phi
November 17, 2015 // 11:43 a.m.
Intel has officially launched its latest-generation Xeon Phi co-processor, boasting 72 individual cores manufactured on the company's 14nm Tri-Gate Transistor process.
Born from the company's failed Larrabee discrete graphics initiative, the Xeon Phi family - part of an internal high-performance computing initiative dubbed Many Integrated Cores (MIC) - takes shrunken versions of classic x86-architecture processor cores, duplicates them, and gives them access to scads of high-speed memory on a plug-in accelerator board. Previous models, dubbed Knights Landing, offered up to 61 individual cores per board; the new models, Knights Landing, boasts 72 cores all built on the company's 14nm TGT process.
Intel is claiming double-precision floating point performance in excess of three teraflops and single-point precision in excess of eight teraflops - up from the six teraflops the company was promising back in 2014 - for its top-end Knights Landing implementation, which includes 72 cores running at 1.3GHz split into tiles of two cores, two AVX-512 Vector Processing Units (VPUs), and 1MB of shared L2 cache. This performance is boosted by the use of Multi-Channel DRAM (MCDRAM) memory, created in partnership with Micron and based on the pair's Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) stacked memory technology. Using MCDRAM, Intel has been able to boost memory throughput by around 50 per cent compared to the planar GDDR5 used by its predecessor Knights Corner.
It's not just about the silicon, though: Knights Landing is the first in the Xeon Phi family to move away from the original 32-bit Pentium microarchitecture. Each Knights Landing model is set to use the company's low-power Silvermont microarchitecture, found in Atom processors, and incorporating Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) missing from the original implementation. A bigger shift is that the processors no longer need to act as accelerators, but can be used as the sole processor in the system running both the workload and the operating system - something GPU-based offerings can't match.
Following its previously-announced 2H 2015 launch schedule, Intel is making the Knights Landing Xeon Phi processors available today. It has indicated, however, that supplies are limited with mass adoption of the part - and 'mass' here being a very relative term compared to mainstream processors from the company - not expected until some time early 2016.