Intel widens Xeon Phi HPC coprocessor lineup

The pitch that Intel's salespeople have to make to push Xeon Phi x86-based coprocessors just got a little easier and more interesting. And in the same week that a hybrid Xeon-Xeon Phi machine - China's Tianhe-2 - took the title as the fastest supercomputer in the End of lease cleaning sydney.

And that is going to make life a little bit harder for Nvidia and its Tesla GPU coprocessor line and indeed for anyone trying to offload floating point math from CPUs to another device.

Intel is, of course, fired up about its Xeon Phi chip, formerly known as the "Many Integrated Core" or MIC processor. MIC is the remnant of a failed attempt to move into the graphics processing market with a chip based on the x86 instruction set. Plenty of products in the IT racket end up doing a job they were not initially intended for, and there is no dishonor in that. Intel wants to sell lots of Xeon Phi coprocessors in workstations, departmental HPC systems, and large capability-class machines that dominate the Top500 supercomputer rankings, and it certainly needs to make some extra money as the PC business goes through gut-wrenching changes that will almost certainly be echoed in the server racket in the years to come.

"We believe that heterogeneity is here to stay," explains Rajeeb Hazra, general manager of the Technical Computing Group inside of Intel, which is part of the Data Center and Connected Systems Group that makes chips and chipsets for server, storage, and networking devices. And, perhaps more importantly, HPC center and commercial customers seem to concur with this notion.

In a briefing with press to go over the new Xeon Phi offerings, Hazra cited survey data from a few years back, when under 30 per cent of customers in the HPC segment surveyed by IDC said they would use any kind of coprocessor in their HPC systems. The latest IDC survey shows more than 70 per cent now believe that they will use coprocessors alongside processors in a heterogeneous (what we would call hybrid) system.

And, lucky for all of the HPC players, the market definition is expanding from the traditional government and academic labs doing simulation to sophisticated big data and simulation projects that mash up very large data sets that were too expensive to play with up until now, when servers and storage and bandwidth have all fallen in price enough for them to be economic as well as technically possible. This, among other factors, is driving the HPC systems market from $11bn in 2012 to $15bn in 2015, according to Intel.

We could argue that this merging of big data with simulation is not ethically or culturally desirable, but odds are we will lose that argument. Humans and their governments have never shown the ability to walk away from a technology that someone thinks they can make money on, and there is no reason to believe we are going to start in 2013.

We will no doubt convince ourselves that the European Human Brain Project and the US Brain Initiative, which together will cost billions of dollars, will lead to some insight. We will build what we think are good enough simulations of the human brain to convince ourselves that we can simulate human thinking, and then correlate data about millions or billions of real people and try to make some guesses about what people are thinking, and why.

What these and similar projects will do is keep the government labs buying more gear from favored vendors. And what will actually happen is that we will create a fake brain that will make an even more irritating automated call center rep and unemploy untold millions of people worldwide, and it will be called progress.

But I would bet on Google coming up with truly smart systems - and perhaps the foundation for SkyNet - before the traditional HPC centers of the world. They have more skin in the game than government funding for some supercomputer centers. Think about the economic value of replacing a good chunk of the knowledge workers of the world. Maybe we should work on our neolithic survival skills a little more and play with our iPhones a little less?

In the meantime, here's some shiny and crunchy new Xeon Phi coprocessors. As El Reg previously reported, Intel has been working to create a differentiated lineup of Xeon Phi coprocessors based on its "Knights Corner" 62-core, Pentium-derived parallel processing chip. And at the International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany today, Intel will announce variants of the Xeon Phis with different feeds, Domestic cleaning sydney, and packaging but all based on the same Knights Corner chip.

There's no tick of a redesign and no tock of a process shrink, so don't get too excited. All of the new Xeon Phi cards and boards are based on the same Knights Corner chip that finally debuted last November using existing 22 nanometer Tri-Gate processes from Intel's wafer bakers.

The existing Xeon Phi 3100 series is now fleshed out with active and passive cooling models, the latter being designed to slide into servers and workstations and make use of the cooling embodied in the enclosures of their machines without requiring a fan on the coprocessor itself.

These are the versions of the Xeon Phi that will will deliver the best bang for the buck and midrange performance with up to 6GB of GDDR5 graphics memory on the card and 240GB/sec of memory bandwidth. These plug into PCI-Express 2.0 slots.

There was a 5100 series card announced last year with passive cooling, but the new 5100 series is a system card that is meant to be woven more tightly into machines than the 3100 series can be and therefore aimed at high-density systems. The 5100 series will deliver over 1 teraflops of double-precision floating point oomph and more than 300GB/sec of memory bandwidth across its 8GB of on-board GDDR5 memory. Hazra says that several OEM customers are already working the Xeon Phi 5120D board into their designs.

As is usually the case with Intel, the top-bin parts are quite pricey compared to the low-bin parts. Also, the 3100 series prices were expected to be in the range of $2,000, but Intel is going for a slightly lower $1,695 price point, no doubt to put a little pressure on Nvidia's Tesla K20. The Xeon Phi 7100s are aimed at the K20X variants of the chips, in theory.
  1. 2013/06/18(火) 18:02:17|
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Never the rail deal

Sydney's monorail, which runs in a 3.6-kilometre loop around the fringe of the city and through Darling Harbour, which has carriages that might have travelled to the moon and back five times, which has inspired mockery and derision from adults and thrills from children and which has left tourists befuddled as to the point of it all, will ride for the last time on Sunday, June 30. It will be 25 years old.

The story of the monorail - ''one of many autocratic farces perpetuated by the powerful on our citizens,'' in the words of Nobel laureate Patrick White - is the story of the ability of NSW politicians to come up with transport ideas that annoy and bemuse people. It is the story of a small loop that has punctuated a day out for a generation of children. But it is also the story of a something novel.

In this it was both of its time and not. It was not of its time because it was built. But it was also symptomatic of what now seems like a golden age of crazy transport ideas, when not only the Cleaning sydney, but also the bus and train and the tram seemed like yesterday's newspapers.

Soon after the monorail opened in 1988, reports emerged of a detailed plan by a Professor Rolf Jensen, of Adelaide, to stretch monorails right across greater Sydney, to raise them above the Hume Highway, Victoria Road, Barrenjoey Road and Military Road in the north, and along Parramatta Road to the west.

In 1989 the business community became involved. A lobby group called the Parramatta Connection came up with the idea of a freight-only monorail network to get trucks off Sydney's roads. ''It might be possible to run a spur line from the new airport at Badgerys Creek,'' the head of the Parramatta Connection, Fred Symes, said optimistically. There was a plan for a monorail to run over the arch of the Harbour Bridge.

But the pinnacle of outlandish transport notions must be that of Hawke government's transport minister John Brown, who in 1987 proposed a monorail in the middle of the country. Brown's monorail would cut out the drive from Uluru to the Olgas.

Now, the Sydney monorail, the only one of the mid-1980s flurry of proposals that was ever built, will be torn down. Nobody wants to pay to maintain it. The carriages need replacing and the pylons need work. And the space it occupies could be better used. Taking the monorail pylons off Pitt Street will open another lane to traffic. Removing it from Pyrmont Bridge opens up the chance for a cycle path. And if it was not there it would be easier to build larger buildings in the place of the old large buildings around Darling Harbour, which is how the O'Farrell government is determined to repeat history.

Born in 1988, the monorail was conceived four years earlier out of two bully-boy fathers.

In May 1984, the Labor premier Neville Wran announced Darling Harbour, then a rundown goods yard, would be redeveloped in time for the bicentenary. Something would be done to improve transport to the site, Wran said. The minister for public works, Laurie Brereton, set to finding a solution. So did Sir Peter Abeles, the country's dominant Labor-friendly business tycoon.

Two proposals emerged as serious contenders as transport options for Darling Harbour. The race was on to pick one and build it before the royal family arrived for the 1988 party.

Abeles' TNT company, a logistics giant, put forward the monorail. It would be built above street level. It would run without drivers and cost $1 a ride. For the Wran government it had the great advantage of being offered at no cost. TNT would build it for free.

The other proposal was a light rail line, put forward by firms Transfield and Comeng. The light rail would be two lanes to extend from Pyrmont and across Pyrmont Bridge. The lanes would then head down Sussex Street and Hickson Road to Circular Quay in one direction. In the other direction they would run to a transport interchange at Central.

But Brereton backed the monorail. Almost immediately after calling for proposals, he began rubbishing the light rail in public. It would be a return to the street-clogging trams of the 1960s, he said. And in private the light rail line was never given a fair go, according to Richard Smythe, then the director of Carr's department.

Smythe recalls a meeting of a cabinet subcommittee including Brereton as minister for public works, Carr as planning minister and Barrie Unsworth as transport minister to discuss the competing proposals, with their department heads and advisers in the room.

''As I recall at that first meeting we were discussing ways each proposal might be evaluated and compared but the matter went no further as it all ended when Laurie Brereton came into the meeting and announced that the decision had been made to go with the monorail, essentially to the proponent with the most clout or influence, led by TNT,'' Smythe said.

Asked about this episode last year, and whether he had supported the tram line, Carr said he had only a slight memory of it.

''Of course the route it took would not have got people directly from the middle of the CBD into the new retail activity planned for Darling Harbour but linked the Quay with DH, which I guess would have been seen as a bit circuitous,'' the Foreign Minister said of the light rail in an email.

''The challenge was a link that would move people in useful numbers from the heart of the CBD into the new precinct,'' Carr said. ''It certainly would have been more popular than the monorail which became a vote-loser for an embattled 12-year-old government.''

Vote loser or not, Brereton pushed on. TNT's proposal won formal cabinet selection in October 1985, with - in another version of history repeating - Brereton relying on a report by the then fledgling Macquarie Bank to justify the End of lease cleaning sydney.

People hit the streets. There was Patrick White, Ita Buttrose, actor Ruth Cracknell, the unionist and activist Jack Mundey. Even Liberal opposition leader Nick Greiner turned out to protest against the monorail before and during construction.

  1. 2013/06/18(火) 17:58:19|
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