On November 16th, Intel announced the newest processor in its Xeon line: the Nehalem-EX for supercomputers. As if this weren’t enough, Intel has also partnered with supercomputer giant NEC to build computers using the new processors.
The new processors were shown to the public for the first time at Supercomputing 2009 in Portland, OR. The new architecture of the Nehalen-EX for supercomputers is reported to offer faster speeds and greater memory capacity. It will also be possible for a user to utilize up to 256 of these processors in one computer or node.
Intel is no stranger to the super computing market: four out of five supercomputers are already using Intel processors. The partnership with Japan’s NEC – the largest supercomputer vendor in the country – marks a new investment in the high performance computing industry. The two companies have said their goal is ‘to develop technologies that will push the boundaries of supercomputer performance,? and with Intel’s powerful chips and branding and NEC’s massive presence in the supercomputer market in Japan it seems likely that they will succeed.
Intel brings more to the table than just their new Xeon processor, though. A technology called AVX, or Advanced Vector Extensions, will be incorporated into the systems being built. AVX is an extension to Intel’s x86 instruction set architecture, which is the groundwork upon which nearly all modern computers are based. The extension helps with floating-point calculations, like the kinds used in scientific and financial applications, and also reduces register load.
NEC currently has a SX-9 supercomputer with a non-Intel processor. This vector processor is designed to perform operations on multiple data elements at once, whereas the Intel Xeon chips are primarily used for scalar processing a function that handles one item of data at a time. Due to the different focuses of the chips and the open nature of the partnership between Intel and NEC, the SX-9 will remain on the market for sale even after the new supercomputers are built.
Richard Dracott, the general manager of Intel’s High Performance Computing Group, stated ‘with NEC further innovating on Intel Xeon processor-based systems, Intel is poised to bring Intel Xeon processor performance to an even wider supercomputing audience.? This fit nicely with general manager of HPC Division of NEC, Fumihiko Hisamitsu’s statement that ?NEC’s substantial experience in the development of vector processing systems’is a natural fit for taking Intel architecture further into new markets.
With the strengths of both industry giants meshing so well together, the Intel/NEC partnership seems like an obvious decision. NEC’s infrastructure and huge market share in one of the most robust technology markets in the world make them an excellent partner for Intel in the elite market of High Performance Computing. Intel, at the same time, brings to the table a huge name brand recognized around the world and a lengthy and impressive track record in the processor chip field. NEC gains the benefits of a processor that will help change our idea of what a supercomputer can do, and Intel gains a foothold in a strong new market.