Knights Landing: Intel Brings 72-Core Processor to Workstation


Recently Intel announced that its 72-core supercomputing chip will go into mass production and is due to be used in workstations. This so-called Knights Landing chip, which Intel says is its most powerful chip to date, is a 72-core processor manufactured on a 14nm process with 8 billion transistors. Charles Wuischpard, general manager at Intel’s supercomputing division, reportedly said that they plan to put this 72-core processor to a limited number desktop computers, with shipments beginning in the first half of next year, and they hope PC makers and other partners will sign on to sell Xeon Phi desktops if the number of customers grows.

The workstations refer to those business desktops that are widely used for high demanding tasks with heavy workload, such as graphic rendering, film editing, engineering programming, etc., and they are typically larger than most conventional computers. The Apple Mac Pro is a good case in point. Nowadays most workstations on the market are equipped with Intel’s Core desktop or Xeon sever chips.

It is also worth mentioning that, Intel’s supercomputing workstations will be made firstly available to those researchers who have not access to Xeon Phi based computers for complex scientific calculations. Researchers will be able to write/test the code on the workstations and then deploy/execute the code on the supercomputers. As Charles Wuischpard expressed, this new workstations is more like an experiment rather than an effort to change the way desktops/workstations are designed.

The Knights Landing chip is known to be able to compute single-precision calculations at a rate of eight teraflops, or double-precision calculations at over three teraflops, which might be the close to the high-performance graphics chips used in the fastest supercomputers worldwide. More like graphics chips, this new chip has the capability of highly parallel computing, but its design is a little different from conventional x86 chips. To help Knights Landing chip carry on heavy computing tasks, Intel adds conventional x86 CPU with specialized processing units.

Besides, the workstation will preload not only operating system but also programming tools and other software programs. The chip will be integrated into the system, which means adding more memory or components becomes more tough to achieve.


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