Intel's Knights Landing (Xeon Phi, 2015) Details

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | July 2, 2014 - 03:55 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Xeon Phi, xeon, silvermont, 14nm

Anandtech has just published a large editorial detailing Intel's Knights Landing. Mostly, it is stuff that we already knew from previous announcements and leaks, such as one by VR-Zone from last November (which we reported on). Officially, few details were given back then, except that it would be available as either a PCIe-based add-in board or as a socketed, bootable, x86-compatible processor based on the Silvermont architecture. Its many cores, threads, and 512 bit registers are each pretty weak, compared to Haswell, for instance, but combine to about 3 TFLOPs of double precision performance.

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Not enough graphs. Could use another 256...

The best way to imagine it is running a PC with a modern, Silvermont-based Atom processor -- only with up to 288 processors listed in your Task Manager (72 actual cores with quad HyperThreading).

The main limitation of GPUs (and similar coprocessors), however, is memory bandwidth. GDDR5 is often the main bottleneck of compute performance and just about the first thing to be optimized. To compensate, Intel is packaging up-to 16GB of memory (stacked DRAM) on the chip, itself. This RAM is based on "Hybrid Memory Cube" (HMC), developed by Micron Technology, and supported by the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium (HMCC). While the actual memory used in Knights Landing is derived from HMC, it uses a proprietary interface that is customized for Knights Landing. Its bandwidth is rated at around 500GB/s. For comparison, the NVIDIA GeForce Titan Black has 336.4GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Intel and Micron have worked together in the past. In 2006, the two companies formed "IM Flash" to produce the NAND flash for Intel and Crucial SSDs. Crucial is Micron's consumer-facing brand.

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So the vision for Knights Landing seems to be the bridge between CPU-like architectures and GPU-like ones. For compute tasks, GPUs edge out CPUs by crunching through bundles of similar tasks at the same time, across many (hundreds of, thousands of) computing units. The difference with (at least socketed) Xeon Phi processors is that, unlike most GPUs, Intel does not rely upon APIs, such as OpenCL, and drivers to translate a handful of functions into bundles of GPU-specific machine language. Instead, especially if the Xeon Phi is your system's main processor, it will run standard, x86-based software. The software will just run slowly, unless it is capable of vectorizing itself and splitting across multiple threads. Obviously, OpenCL (and other APIs) would make this parallelization easy, by their host/kernel design, but it is apparently not required.

It is a cool way that Intel arrives at the same goal, based on their background. Especially when you mix-and-match Xeons and Xeon Phis on the same computer, it is a push toward heterogeneous computing -- with a lot of specialized threads backing up a handful of strong ones. I just wonder if providing a more-direct method of programming will really help developers finally adopt massively parallel coding practices.

I mean, without even considering GPU compute, how efficient is most software at splitting into even two threads? Four threads? Eight threads? Can this help drive heterogeneous development? Or will this product simply try to appeal to those who are already considering it?

Source: Intel

The Health of Intel's Many Divisions...

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | April 16, 2014 - 08:40 PM |
Tagged: Intel, silvermont, arm, quarterly earnings, quarterly results

Sean Hollister at The Verge reported on Intel's recent quarterly report. Their chosen headline focuses on the significant losses incurred from the Mobile and Communications Group, the division responsible for tablet SoCs and 3G/4G modems. Its revenue dropped 52%, since last quarter, and its losses increased about 6%. Intel is still making plenty of money, with $12.291 billion USD in profits for 2013, but that is in spite of Mobile and Communications losing $3.148 billion over the same time.

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Intel did have some wins, however. The Internet of Things Group is quite profitable, with $123 million USD of income from $482 million of revenue. They also had a better March quarter than the prior year, up a few hundred million in both revenue and profits. Also, Mobile and Communications should have a positive impact on the rest of the company. The Silvermont architecture, for instance, will eventually form the basis for 2015's Xeon Phi processors and co-processors.

It is concerning that Internet of Things has over twice the sales of Mobile but I hesitate to make any judgments. From my position, it is very difficult to see whether or not this trend follows Intel's projections. We simply do not know whether the division, time and time again, fails to meet expectations or whether Intel is just intentionally being very aggressive to position itself better in the future. I would shrug off the latter but, obviously, the former would be a serious concern.

The best thing for us to do is to keep an eye on their upcoming roadmaps and compare them to early projections.

Source: The Verge

The little Atom that could

Subject: Processors | October 1, 2013 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: Intel, atom, Bay Trail, Z3000, silvermont

Silvermont has a lot of work cut out for it to get out from the shadow of its poorly performing predecessors.  The new Z3000 is much more than just a low powered chip, it is Intel's first SoC aimed at taking market share from ARM.  It has been out for almost a month now and so it is worth rounding up a few of the reviews to remind you of Intel's plans in the low powered mobile market as well as the new modular server market.  The Tech Report benchmarked this chip running both Win8.1 and Android OSes against a variety of products powered by ARM, Snapdragon and Tegra as well as against a Core-i3 and an A4-5000 from AMD.  Check out the results in their full review.

If you missed it the first time around you can catch Ryan's coverage here.

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"Intel has just pulled back the curtain on the Atom Z3000 series, based on the "Bay Trail" SoC. Equipped with the potent new "Silvermont" CPU architecture, this chip is intended to challenge ARM for supremacy in tablets and convertibles. We have a first look at its architecture and performance."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

A Whole New Atom Family

This past spring I spent some time with Intel at its offices in Santa Clara to learn about a brand new architecture called Silvermont.  Built for and targeted at low power platforms like tablets and smartphones, Silvermont was not simply another refresh of the aging Atom processors that were all based on Pentium cores from years ago; instead Silvermont was built from the ground up for low power consumption and high efficiency to compete against the juggernaut that is ARM and its partners.  My initial preview of the Silvermont architecture had plenty of detail about the change to an out-of-order architecture, the dual-core modules that comprise it and the power optimizations included. 

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Today, during the annual Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco, we are finally able to reveal the remaining details about the new Atom processors based on Silvermont, code named Bay Trail.  Not only do we have new information about the designs, but we were able to get our hands on some reference tablets integrating Bay Trail and the new Atom Z3000 series of SoCs to benchmark and compare to offerings from Qualcomm, NVIDIA and AMD.

 

A Whole New Atom Family

It should be surprise to anyone that the name “Intel Atom Processor” has had a stigma attached to it almost since its initial release during the netbook craze.  It was known for being slow and hastily put together though it was still a very successful product in terms of sales.  With each successive release and update, Diamondville to Pineview to Cedarview, Atom was improved but only marginally so.  Even with Medfield and Clover Trail the products were based around that legacy infrastructure and it showed.  Tablets and systems based on Clover Trail saw only moderate success and lukewarm reviews.

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With Silvermont the Atom brand gets a second chance.  Some may consider it a fifth or sixth chance, but Intel is sticking with the name.  Silvermont as an architecture is incredibly flexible and will find its way into several Intel products like Avoton, Bay Trail and Merrifield and in segments from the micro-server to smartphones to convertible tablets.  Not only that, but Intel is aware that Windows isn’t the only game out there anymore and the company will support the architecture across Linux, Android and Windows environments. 

Atom has been in tablets for some time now, starting in September of last year with Clover Trail deigns being announced during IDF.  In February we saw the initial Android-based options also filter out, again based on Clover Trail.  They were okay, but really only stop-gaps to prove that Intel was serious about the space.  The real test will be this holiday season with Bay Trail at the helm.

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While we always knew these Bay Trail platforms were going be branded as Atom we now have the full details on the numbering scheme and productization of the architecture.  The Atom Z3700 series will consist of quad-core SoCs with Intel HD graphics (the same design as the Core processor series though with fewer compute units) that will support Windows and Android operating systems.  The Atom Z3600 will be dual-core processors, still with Intel HD graphics, targeted only at the Android market.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Bay Trail processor, Atom Z3770!!

Avoton arrives today

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2013 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: Avoton, Intel, atom, server, silvermont, 22nm

The new Silvermont based 22nm Avoton chips are officially available as of today as Intel attempts to outmaneuver ARM's attempts to enter the server market.  These chips are not the Atom you have grown to know and despise, this is a brand new architecture which Intel claims will be vastly superior in performance while using much less power.  They are billed as true SOCs and reflect the changing server market which is now more focused on modular systems of relatively low performance which can be networked together to provide just as much processing power as is needed.  The Register did not get any performance numbers yet, hopefully we will see these chips in action soon so we can judge for ourselves if they have what it takes to make it in the server room.

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"If you were expecting Chipzilla to keep its server-chip powder dry until its Intel Developer Forum next week, surprise! It looks like Intel is going to jump the gun and get its "Avoton" Atom server chips into the field this Wednesday, as you can see from this announcement preview that Intel sent out to press and analysts over the Labor Day holiday in the States."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Intel Announces Q2 Results: Below Expectations, but Still Good

Subject: Editorial | July 17, 2013 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: silvermont, quarterly results, money, Lenovo, k900, Intel, atom, 22 nm tri-gate, 14 nm

Intel announced their Q2 results for this year, and it did not quite meet expectations.  When I say expectations, I usually mean “make absolutely obscene amounts of money”.  It seems that Intel was just shy of estimates and margins were only slightly lower than expected.  That being said, Intel reported revenue of $12.8 billion US and a net income of $2 billion US.  Not… too… shabby.

Analysts were of course expecting higher, but it seems as though the PC slowdown is in fact having a material effect on the market.  Intel earlier this quarter cut estimates, so this was not exactly a surprise.  Margins came in around 58.3%, but these are expected to recover going into Q3.  Intel is certainly still in a strong position as millions of PCs are being shipped every quarter and they are the dominant CPU maker in its market.

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Intel has been trying to get into the mobile market as it still exhibits strong growth not only now, but over the next several years as things become more and more connected.  Intel had ignored this market for some time, much to their dismay.  Their Atom based chips were slow to improve and typically used a last generation process node for cost savings.  In the face of a strong ARM based portfolio of products from companies like Qualcomm, Samsung, and Rockchip, the Intel Atom was simply not an effective solution until the latest batch of chips were available from Intel.  Products like the Atom Z2580, which powers the Lenovo K900 phone, were late to market as compared to other 28 nm products such as the Snapdragon series from Qualcomm.

Intel expects the next generation of Atom being built on its 22 nm Tri-Gate process, Silvermont, to be much more competitive with the latest generation offerings from its ARM based competitors.  Unfortunately for Intel, we do not expect to see Silvermont based products until later in Q3 with availability in late Q4 or Q1 2014.  Intel needs to move chips, but this will be a very different market than what they are used to.  These SOCs have decent margins, but they are nowhere near what Intel can do with their traditional notebook, desktop, and server CPUs.

To help cut costs going forward, it seems as though Intel will be pulling back on its plans for 14 nm production.  Expenditures and floor space/equipment for 14 nm will be cut back as compared to what previous plans had held.  Intel still is hoping to start 14 nm production at the end of this year with the first commercial products to hit at the end of 2014.  There are questions as to how viable 14 nm is as a fully ramped process in 2014.  Eventually 14 nm will work as advertised, but it appears as though the kinks were much more complex than anticipated given how quickly Intel ramped 22 nm.

Intel has plenty of money, a dominant position in the x86 world, and a world class process technology on which to base future products on.  I would say that they are still in very, very good shape.  The market is ever changing and Intel is still fairly nimble given their size.  They also recognize (albeit sometimes a bit later than expected) shifts in the marketplace and they invariably craft a plan of attack which addresses their shortcomings.  While Intel revenue seems to have peaked last year, they are addressing new markets aggressively as well as holding onto their dominant position in notebooks, desktops, and server markets.  Intel is expecting Q3 to be up, but overall sales throughout 2013 to be flat as compared to 2012.  Have I mentioned they still cleared $2 billion in a down quarter?

Source: Intel

Leaked Bay Trail Product Lineup Reveals Atom, Celeron, and Pentium Branded Processors

Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2013 - 02:41 AM |
Tagged: valleyview, SoC, silvermont, pentium, Intel, celeron, Bay Trail, atom

A leaked Intel lineup reveals that the company's upcoming Bay Trail processors will also fall under not only the traditional Atom branding, but the Pentium and Celeron brands as well. The new lineup includes Bay Trail-D, Bay Trail-I, and Bay Trail M processors (note that Valleyview is the CPU codename, Bay Trail is the platform codename, with the CPU based on Intel's 22nm Silvermont architecture). The Bay Trail SoCs, which are based on the company's new 22nm Silvermont micro-architecture, include five processors in the Atom family, two in the Pentium family, and five processors that are part of the Celeron family.

All five of the Atom branded processors are Bay Trail-I chips. The leaked Atom lineup includes the following SKUs.

  • Atom E3810 (Bay Trail-I): Single core at 1.46 GHz with 400 MHz GPU and 5W TDP
  • Atom E3821 (Bay Trail-I): Dual core at 1.33 GHz with 533 MHz GPU and 6W TDP
  • Atom E3822 (Bay Trail-I): Dual core at 1.46 GHz with 667 MHz GPU and 7W TDP
  • Atom E3823 (Bay Trail-I): Dual core at 1.75 GHz with 792 MHz GPU and 8W TDP
  • Atom E3840 (Bay Trail-I): Quad core at 1.91 GHz with 792 MHz GPU and 10W TDP

Further, there will be one Bay Trail-M and one Bay Trail-D  Silvermont-based CPU under the Pentium brand. Specifications on those two chips are below.

  • Pentium N3510 (Bay Trail-M):  Quad core at 2 GHz with 750 MHz GPU and 7.5W TDP (4.5W SDP)
  • Pentium J2850 (Bay Trail-D): Quad core at 2.41 GHz with 792 MHz GPU and 10W TDP

Finally, the new Bay Trail-M and Bay Trail-D SoCs under the Celeron brand includes two quad cores and three dual core CPUs.

According to this PDF, the N2805, N2810, and N2910 Celeron CPUs will have an MSRP of $132, though it seems as though the N2805 should be cheaper than that since it has much lower specifications than the other two. The new Celeron-branded chips have the following specifications.

  • Celeron J1750 (Bay Trail-D): Dual core at 2.41 GHz with 792 MHz GPU and 10W TDP
  • Celeron J1850 (Bay Trail-D): Quad core at 2 GHz with 792 MHz GPU and 10W TDP
  • Celeron N2805 (Bay Trail-M): Dual core at 1.46 GHz with 667 MHz GPU and 4.5W TDP (sub-2.5W SDP)
  • Celeron N2810 (Bay Trail-M): Dual core at 2 GHz with 756 MHz GPU and 7.5W TDP (4.5W SDP)
  • Celeron N2910 (Bay Trail-M): Quad core at 1.6 GHz with 756 MHz GPU and 7.5W TDP (4.5W SDP)

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on Bay Trail and Intel's first OoOE Atom micro-architecture as it develops.

Also read:

Source: Fanless Tech

Computex 2013: Intel Demos Baytrail Tablet, Haswell Ultrabook, Ivy Bridge Passive Tablet

Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 6, 2013 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: computex, computex 2013, Intel, haswell, Ivy Bridge, k900, Lenovo, baytrail, silvermont, ultrabook, acer, aspire s7

Intel had a host of new technologies to show off at Computex this year, starting of course with the Haswell processor launch.  Hopefully you have read our review of the Core i7-4770K LGA1150 CPU already but thanks to some video sent our way, we have other interesting bits to share.

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Below you will see Intel demonstrating four new products.  First is the Acer Aspire S7 using a Haswell dual-core platform playing back 4K content.  Next up is an Ivy Bridge tablet that is running completely fanless (passive) thus generating no noise at all while still offering impressive CPU and graphics performance.  Intel then pulls a Lenovo K900 Android smartphone out of its pocket powered by the Clovertrail+ enabled Atom Z2580 SoC.  Finally, we get a sneak peak at the next-generation of SoC designs with a look at a Silvermont-based Baytrail tablet running at 2560x1440. 

Manufacturer: Intel

An new era for computing? Or, just a bit of catching up?

Early Tuesday, at 2am for viewers in eastern North America, Intel performed their Computex 2013 keynote to officially kick off Haswell. Unlike ASUS from the night prior, Intel did not announce a barrage of new products; the purpose is to promote future technologies and the new products of their OEM and ODM partners. In all, there was a pretty wide variety of discussed topics.

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Intel carried on with the computational era analogy: the 80's was dominated by mainframes; the 90's were predominantly client-server; and the 2000's brought the internet to the forefront. While true, they did not explicitly mention how each era never actually died but rather just bled through: we still use mainframes, especially with cloud infrastructure; we still use client-server; and just about no-one would argue that the internet has been displaced, despite its struggle against semi-native apps.

Intel believes that we are currently in the two-in-one era, which they probably mean "multiple-in-one" due to devices such as the ASUS Transformer Book Trio. They created a tagline, almost a mantra, illustrating their vision:

"It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it."

But before elaborating, they wanted to discuss their position in the mobile market. They believe they are becoming a major player in the mobile market with key design wins and outperforming some incumbent system on a chips (SoCs). The upcoming Silvermont architecture pines to be fill in the gaps below Haswell, driving smartphones and tablets and stretching upward to include entry-level notebooks and all-in-one PCs. The architecture promises to scale between offering three-fold more performance than its past generation, or a fifth of the power for equivalent performance.

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Ryan discussed Silvermont last month, be sure to give his thoughts a browse for more depth.

Also, click to read on after the break for my thoughts on the Intel keynote.

New Silvermont Atom Chips Will Use Pentium and Celeron Branding

Subject: Processors | June 2, 2013 - 11:32 PM |
Tagged: silvermont, pentium, Intel, haswell, celeron, atom, 22nm

In addition to the impending launch of Intel's desktop Haswell processors, the company is also working on new Atom-series chips based on Intel's Silvermont architecture. Ryan Shrout wrote about the upcoming Atom architecture a few weeks ago, and you can read up on it here. However, in short, Atoms using the Silvermont architecture are 22nm SoCs with a Hyper Threaded, dual-module quad core design that comes with burst-able clockspeeds and up to 2.5x the performance of chips using the previous generation Saltwell architecture. Intel is promising up to a 50% IPC (instructions per clock) increase, and 4.7x lower power versus previous generation Atom CPUs.

A block diagram of Intel's upcoming Silvermont architecture.

With that said, over the weekend I read an interesting article over at PC World that hinted at these new Silvermont-based Atom processors taking up the Pentium and Celeron branded CPU mantle. In speaking with Intel employee Kathy Gill, the site learned that Intel will be using the Silvermont architecture in code-named Bay Trail-M and Bay Trail-D processors for notebooks and desktops respectively. The Bay Trail code name isn't new, but Intel's use of the Pentium and Celeron branding for these Atom chips is. For the past few generations, Intel has re-purposed lower-tier or lower binned Core processors as Pentiums or Celerons by disabling features and/or clocking them lower. It seems that Intel finally believes that its Atom lineup is good enough to serve those low-end desktop and notebook CPU purposes under the budget brand families.

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Kathy Gill further stated that "we aren't ready to disclose additional details on Haswell plans at this time,” which does not rule out Haswell-based Celeron and Pentium chips. It does not confirm them either, however.

After a chat with PC Perspective's Josh Walrath on the issue, I'm not certain which direction Intel will take, but I do believe that Intel will (at least) favor the Atom chips for the Pentium and Celeron brands/lines because the company will see much better profit margins with the Silvermont-based chips compared to Haswell-based ones. On the other hand, Intel would lose out on the ability to re-brand low binning Core i3s as Pentium or Celeron CPUs. Further, going with both architectures would complicate matters and invite a good amount of brand confusion for many consumers in spite of allowing a mix of better profit margins and re-purposing chips that otherwise wouldn't make the cut (admittedly, Intel probably has to artificially limit some number of chips to keep up with the volume of Pentium and Celerons needed, it's difficult to say to what extent though).

Hopefully we will know more about Intel's Bay Trail CPUs and branding plans at Computex later this week.

What do you think of this move by Intel, and will the Silvermont-based Bay Trail chips be up to the task?

Source: PC World