Intel recently scrapped plans to launch Larrabee-based discrete graphics products while hinting that the multi-core GPU technology still holds promise as far as high-performance computing goes. It today unveiled plans to launch a new line of products, based on its Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture, to cater to the needs of various HPC segments.
The announcement implies that all the time and effort spent on Larrabee hasn't gone down the drain since the MIC architecture is itself based on a bunch of Intel projects, including Larrabee and the Single-chip Cloud Computer.
It should be very clear to anyone familiar with the Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC) – a research microprocessor containing 48 Intel Architecture cores, that a commercial product derived from it is almost bound to feature a ridiculous number of cores. Indeed, the first offering in the new line will feature 50 cores on a single chip. Knights Core, as the chip is codenamed. will be made on a 22nm process.
"Intel's Xeon processors, and now our new Intel® Many Integrated Core architecture products, will further push the boundaries of science and discovery as Intel accelerates solutions to some of humanity's most challenging problems," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.
Intel no longer plans on pursuing discrete graphics, the chip maker announced in a blog post today titled "An Update On Our Graphics-related Programs."
"We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term," wrote Bill Kircos, Intel's Director of Product and Technology PR. "As we said in December, we missed som key product milestones."
Putting a positive spin on the announcement, Intel used the opportunity to talk up its mobile graphics strategy, though never really delved into any real detail about the company's future products.
"Our top priority continues to be around delivering an outstanding processor that addresses every day, general purpose computer needs and provides leadership visual computing experiences via processor graphics," Kircos explained. "We are further boosting funding and employee expertise here, and continue to champion the rapid shift to mobile wireless computing and HD video - we are laser-focused on these areas."
As for Larrabee, Kircos said Intel is executing on a business opportunity derived from the Larrabee program, but the project as you know it is dead, at least for the foreseeable future.
Intel made a surprise announcement recently when the chip maker said it was canceling its much hyped Larrabee graphics chip, saying the GPU would exist only as a software development platform until further notice. Given all the attention Larrabee has received and now the sudden turn of events, we wouldn't be surprised if Nvidia used the situation as ammunition in its ongoing verbal warfare with Intel. So what did Nvidia have to say?
"The fact that a company with Intel's technical prowess and financial resources has struggled so hard to succeed with parallel computing shows just how exceptionally difficult a challenge this is," Igor Stanek, Nvidia Product PR Manager, told Fudzilla when asked to comment on the situation.
That's quite a bit more tame than we would have expected from Nvidia, but then again, the verbal volleys usually come from Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, who once declared the CPU a dead business and promised to open up a can of whoop-ass on the competition.
Intel said today that it’s much hyped Larrabee graphics chip won’t be happening after all. The Larrabee GPU will exist only as a software development platform for the time being. According to Intel spokesman Nick Knupffer, "Larrabee silicon and software development are behind where we hoped to be at this point in the project. As a result, our first Larrabee product will not be launched as a standalone discrete graphics product.”
The Larrabee chip has already been delayed repeatedly, so this news isn’t entirely surprising. There have been indications of trouble ever since Larrabee missed its original debut in 2008. A recent demo of the chip at SC09 highlighted lackluster performance one wouldn’t expect after such a long development. It would have been Intel’s first standalone graphics part in over a decade, but now is little more than a sore spot.
Intel gave no clear guidelines on when the SDK can be expected, just sometime in 2010. The cancellation of Larrabee has no bearing on Intel’s upcoming hardware graphics solution for the Atom “Pine Trail” chip. Pine Trail will have graphics processing integrated in the CPU. Oh well Intel, you’ll always have Atom.
Intel hopes to eventually make a thunderous entrance in the discrete graphics market with its upcoming GPGPU chip codenamed Larrabee, and to do that, the company needs to line up some chip partners willing to jump on board. Intel CEO Paul Otellini set out to do that recently, talking privately to several China-based videocard makers.
According to what un-named sources have been whispering in DigiTimes' ear, Intel plans to offer preferential pricing for just the GPU by itself, as well as when bundled with other Intel products. This is a similar strategy to what Intel has been doing with its Atom platform, and it remains to be seen how many graphics partners will warm to Larrabee in this manner.
As it stands, some first-tier graphics card vendors are a bit leary about Larrabee on fears that the first release may end up buggy. But within the next couple of years, vendors expect Larrabee will be able to hold its own against what AMD and Nvidia have to offer.
Its next-generation microprocessors, which are based on its Westmere microarchitecture, are codenamed Clarkdale (desktop version) and Arrandale (notebook version). The “Dales” chips are a multi-chip solution featuring 45nm integrated graphics cores. Intel is also expected to shed light on a new system-on-chip technology, besides announcing transistor improvements. The event might also feature some updates on the company’s Larrabee platform.
If you thought the tension between Intel and Nvidia had already reached a boiling point over various licensing issues, just wait until the CPU maker (that would be Intel) releases its discrete graphics GPGPU solution called Larrabee sometime next year. The two companies (along with AMD/ATI) will suddenly be in direct competition on a whole new playing field, complete with a plot twist involving a longtime Nvidia graphics partner.
That partner, according to news and rumor site The Inquirer, is EVGA, who up to this point has been Nvidia's number one add-in-board (AIB) partner. Once Larrabee ships, that will change, The Inq says.
If true, this could be a big blow to Nvidia. EVGA has built an enthusiast following by offering one of the most flexible warranty policies in the business, and if the rumor holds true, this would be the second time a major partner jumped ship. Back in December of last year, XFX, another former Nvidia partner known for its liberal warranty terms, announced it would begin selling AMD videocards.
Just in case you were worried that Intel wasn’t committed to it’s heavily delayed Larrabee platform, a 12 million dollar investment in a new Visual Computing Institute should help convince you otherwise. Located at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, this is the largest joint project ever formed between Intel and a European university. The institute will help Intel explore advanced graphical computing technologies, which includes everything from more realistic gaming, to advanced 3D user interfaces.
The primary focus of the research will be applied to Intel’s terascalling program. This will help them better understand how they can apply Larrabees unique multi x86 core architecture to achieve sustainable performance increases over modern day GPU’s. Larrabee has been delayed until some unknown date in 2010, presumably because it hasn’t yet achieved the type of performance gains they were hoping for against Nvidia & AMD.
In addition to terascalling research, Intel will also work with other hardware design labs in Barcelona, Spain, and Braunschweig, Germany to help optimize the Larrabee design. Z-buffering, clipping, and even ray tracing are all promises made by the Larrabee team, but clearly the software needed to make all this happen still requires some work.
Want more details? Click here to watch the press video.
So is Larrabee really the future? Or does this only prove Nvidia’s case that its promise is overhyped?
Disaster strikes! Not only is Will out of the office (meaning no video feed for this episoe), but Gordon reveals that he has yet to watch the new Star Trek movie! Nevertheless, this doesn't prevent the rest of the gang from sharing their [spoiler-free] thoughts about this geek touchstone in this week's exciting podcast. We also spend time weighting the merits of the EU-Intel case, and analyze the implications of Windows 7 and Larrabee replease dates. Gordon gives advice to advertising agencies for Microsoft and Apple, and delivers a fuming rant of the week. Did we see the return of the Dark Knight 2.0? Download the podcast to find out!
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Intel's Larrabee project might rank as one of the most anticipated technology releases in a long while, and it looks like we'll have to wait just a bit longer than originally thought. It was expected that Intel would launch its many-cored cGPU sometime in late 2009, however the chip maker is now saying it plans to launch Larrabee in 2010.
Not a whole lot of details are known about Larrabee, only that it's a x86-based discrete graphics solution built around the second generation Pentium processor technology with the P54C core. When Larrabee launches, it will come in several iterations, the lowest of which will comprise no less than 8 cores. On the higher end, look for at least 32 cores and a 2GHz or faster clockspeed.
While it all sounds impressive, Intel's Jospeh Schultz did say that it would be a "big challenge" to compete with products from Nvidia and AMD.