Intel Unveils Plans for Six-Core Nehalem-EX

Intel on Monday used its outstanding showing in the Top500 supercomputing list as the launch pad for the first Nehalem-EX, a high-end processor used in four-socket or higher systems and designed for massive computational work like supercomputing.

Intel’s roadmap has always listed the EX as an eight-core machine, but the chipmaker is now planning a six-core processor as well, which will run at a higher clock speed than the eight-core processor, though it has not said how fast the eight-core chips will be.

Intel did not give any further details on the new processor except to say it would ship in the first half of 2010, along with the eight-core version, and allow for systems with up to 256 processors.

Intel also announced that a beta program for its Ct technology will be available by the end of this year. Intel Ct technology makes parallel programming in the C and C++ languages easier by automatically parallelizing code across multi-core and many-core processors.

Intel also announced a partnership with NEC of Japan to develop supercomputer technologies, a move that comes just a week after Japan’s government gutted the nation’s funding for high-performance computing programs. Japan had been a leader in the HPC world, and frequently dominated the Top 500 list with systems from NEC and Hitachi back in the 1990s, but it has fallen off in recent years.

NEC will build Xeon-based supercomputers on its own accelerating vector technologies, like AVX. NEC will also continue to sell its existing SX vector processor-based products. A vector processor can perform a mathematical operation on several numbers simultaneously.

“Intel’s substantial investment in the Intel architecture, including the development of processors, chipsets, software compilers and other related products has expanded the usages of Intel Xeon processors in both the volume and high-end HPC market segments,” Richard Dracott, general manager of Intel’s high performance computing group, said in a statement. “Now 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.”

Intel has a total of 402 systems in the Top500 list of supercomputers, including 20 of the top 50. The majority are older, pre-Nehalem Xeons. Nehalem, introduced at the beginning of the year, is found in a total of 95 systems on the list.

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