Intel used the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany, to reveal its first-generation Xeon Phi family of coprocessors, codenamed "Knights Corner."
The new chips, aimed to complement Intel’s existing Xeon processor E5 lineup, are said by the chip maker to pave the way for new high-performance computing platforms that can break the exaflop barrier by 2018.
The upcoming 22-nm Xeon Phi series, slated to launch by the end of the year, will be the first commercial processors from Intel based on its Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture.
The MIC model means the new chips will be optimised for highly parallel workloads, such as those handled by supercomputers or high-performance computing (HPC) systems, and will be able to accelerate data-intensive applications like weather modeling or advanced materials simulation.
Containing more than 50 cores and hosting a minimum of 8 GB of GDDR5 memory, the Xeon Phi family is being positioned by Intel as a stepping stone toward its goal of reaching exascale computing over the next six years.
Achieving this goal would yield a new generation of supercomputers capable of reaching processing speeds nearly 100 times as fast as the world’s most sophisticated supercomputers can process data today.
It would also enable more complex calculations, making it possible, for example, for scientists to produce a two-week weather forecast just as accurately as they produce a 48-hour forecast today.
"As we add Intel Xeon Phi products to our portfolio, scientists, engineers and IT professionals will experience breakthrough levels of performance to effectively address challenges ranging from climate change to risk management," said Raj Hazra, Intel's general manager of technical computing and data centres, in a statement.
"This is the next step of Intel's commitment to achieve exascale-level computation by 2018, and create a unique technology category that delivers unprecedented performance for today's highly parallel applications."
Xeon Phi shipments are planned for the second half of 2012, but the first development cluster based on the new coprocessors is already running and has been ranked 150th on the Top500 list of supercomputers, Intel said. The system delivers up to 118 teraflops of performance.
The chip giant also said 44 manufacturers including Bull, Cray, Dell, HP, IBM, Inspur, SGI and NEC have already committed to including Xeon Phi chips in their system roadmaps.
In a separate announcement from the ISC event Monday, Intel revealed it was acquiring roughly 1,700 patents and patent applications from wireless technologies vendor InterDigital. The deal, which is valued at $US375 million, will arm Intel with patents related to 3G, 4G and 802.11 technologies it can use to expand its footprint in the mobile market.