New Developer Platform to Accelerate Adoption of Knights Landing

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In this special guest feature, Sean Thielen writs that Colfax is giving developers a head start with cutting-edge KNL processor technology from Intel.

dapIn the HPC world, hardware manufacturers and developers alike have long wrestled with the dilemma that surrounds a new hardware release: the gap between the broad availability of a new cutting-edge platform and the need for developers to have early access to platforms so they can update code and take advantage of the more advanced capabilities in the new platforms.

With the release of a Developer Access Program for the Intel® Xeon Phi™ Processor codenamed Knights Landing (KNL), Intel and its partner Colfax are widening early levels of access, support and training for the widely anticipated next-generation Intel Xeon Phi processor release. The Developer Access Program gives developers the opportunity to begin leveraging key new capabilities in the processor before they are generally available. That means developers will have time to work to parallelize and vectorize their code and look for opportunities to exploit the massive performance capabilities that KNL offers so workloads are ready for prime time when customers deploy their next-generation systems.

The time and productivity gains of early access could prove invaluable for labs, institutions and companies looking for incremental performance and efficiency gains. In addition to early access, training and support are also critical to developer ramp up time and code readiness. Colfax is tackling this issue with training, including webinars and a hands-on workshop series.

Charting a faster path to code modernization

Colfax, a leading provider of parallel computing education programs and “ready-to-go” systems, has collaborated closely with Intel to create a turnkey platform for the Developer Access Program, which is being dubbed the Ninja Developer Platform. Kirti Devi, Platform Marketing Manager for Intel HPC group, explained that the Ninja Platform is a bleeding-edge code modernization solution for helping developers deliver multi-threaded, vectorized software that can enable today’s HPC workloads to achieve best-in-class performance.

The liquid-cooled and air cooled Ninja pedestal platforms deliver highly parallel performance and includes practically all the hardware, software, tools, and education and support resources developers will need to start work immediately, including memory, storage and CentOS 7.2 for less than $5000 USD. Additionally, for developers looking for a cluster, the Developer Access Program offers a fully configured four-node rack mount server. Each option comes packaged with a host of new tools and resources for helping to streamline development—including white papers that explore the keys to successful development on Knights Landing and a series of product demos. The platform also includes a one-year Intel® Parallel Studio XE license. Colfax will also be able to customize the platforms for specific application-related needs.

The education and support resources for the Ninja platform were devised to address the needs of expert parallel programmers who are already familiar with previous generations of Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors and moderately experienced parallel programmers alike.

Intel chose Colfax to roll out the Ninja Platform for two main reasons: The comprehensive nature of our platforms, and our deep experience working with and developing education and training plans for the Intel Xeon Phi family of processors over the past four years,” said Guatam Shah, Colfax CEO.

Colfax and Intel say that some of the biggest challenges most developers will need help with include taking advantage of the massive thread and data parallelism and memory bandwidth offered by the latest KNL platforms. Colfax designed the education programs with this in mind.

James Reinders, Parallel Programming Models Architect, and coauthor of the upcoming book on Knights Landing, added, “These systems offer an opportunity for software developers to program the many-core Knights Landing in a hands-on manner at an affordable price. The benefits of having your own dedicated machine are enormous. These 64 core developer Knights Landing platforms, offer the full MCDRAM and memory channel capabilities so we have everything we need as software developers to tune our applications for any Knights Landing processor.” (The KNL processors in the Ninja platform include 64-cores and 16GB MCDRAM, details at ).

Overall, the Ninja platform was designed for usability and efficiency for code developers across academic, engineering, physics, big data analytics, life sciences, modeling, simulation, visualization and scientific applications. To get started, developers simply need to accept an end user license agreement.

Details on the three configurations and customization options, and ordering information on for the platforms are at

A big leap forward

The HPC world has been buzzing about the Knights Landing release for months, and many organizations have been eager to access the next-generation Intel Xeon Phi processor. These platforms are available worldwide, and several local solution providers/OEMs include Paratera (China), Daehan (Korea), HPC Solutions (Japan), and Megware (Europe) are now also offering these platforms in their local markets.

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  1. Fantastic if not for the price… A 5k entry price leaves most programmers out of the discussion while GPGPU continues to be accessible despite it’s shortcomings.