Intel has posted an article on using the Cloud to perform ray tracing in games. Normally, I am not a fan of the term Cloud, because of its overuse and hype. However, in this case, I will make an exception because it uses Intel’s Knights Ferry. What is Knight’s Ferry? Remember Larrabee? Larrabee was the codename for a GPGPU chip that Intel was developing, that was canceled. The follow-on project is called Intel’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) project, with the first product being codenamed Knight’s Corner. Knight’s Ferry falls up under the MIC project. The article describes Knight’s Ferry as:
Intel code name Knights Ferry is the first-generation development platform for the Intel MIC Architecture. It includes a PCIe card that has a 32-core chip on it that is clocked at 1.2 GHz. The development platform is programmable with the regular tools and programming languages that developers regularly use. A bit further out there are plans for an Intel MIC Architecture-based product, code named Knights Corner, that will use 22nm manufacturing technology and will therefore be able to even have more than 50 cores on the chip.
The researchers used four server machines, each with a Knights Ferry PCIe card (32 cores, 4 threads per core). Each server also had a i7-980X processor, which has 6 cores running at 3.33 GHz. The thin client was a a small laptop, running on a Core2 Duo processor P9600 and with a 1280×800 screen.
Everything was connected over a Gigabit Ethernet LAN. Now, not everybody has Gigabit Ethernet, but this is a proof of concept, not a finished product. I suspect that Gigabit Ethernet is not necessary anyway. Sure, it gives you a lot of bandwidth, but from my own testing of
remote visualization services cloud-based applications, it is the latency that is most important. If you are getting a 100 ms ping, then that means you can only get 10 frames per second, at best. You really need a connection with less than 33 ms ping time to get 30 frames per second, and it would be best if it was even lower.
Now if all of this sounds familiar, it is because we covered it last year in Wolfenstein Gets Ray Traced, On a Laptop. At the time, we did not know that they were using Knight’s Ferry. From the conclusion to the article:
Over the last sections it has been shown that ray tracing can offer a variety of new and interesting effects to games. Through this research using a cloud-based gaming setup with machines that utilize the Intel code name Knights Ferry development platform, ray-traced games with a high frame rate can already be achieved today.
Further progress could be made by optimizing the video codec used in order to be able to use it for even smaller devices such as netbooks and tablets. Instead of assuming a Gigabit Ethernet setup, optimizations for wireless networks could be investigated to bring the technology to handheld devices like smartphones. In order to cut down on the number of servers needed, it should be possible to develop support for using multiple Knights Ferry PCIe cards within a single machine. To increase image quality, several well-known post-processing techniques like HDR bloom and depth of field could be added. A smart solution on how to do anti-aliasing for ray tracing with high performance on the Knights Ferry platform could also be investigated.