Larrabee's corpse reanimated as parallel processor for HPC


— 5:54 PM on May 31, 2010

When Intel rather vaguely announced the cancellation of the second-generation Larrabee GPU effort, it hinted at a future for this same architecture in data-parallel computing and promised more news soon. Today, at the International Supercomputing Conference, the firm delivered, announcing a broad strategy of targeting the high-performance computing market.

Intel's first full-fledged product for this market will be a chip code-named "Knight's Corner" built on a 22-nm fab process. The chip will feature "more than 50 cores" on a single piece of silicon. Preliminary "Knights Ferry" development kits are said to be shipping now, and presumably, those are based on first-generation Larrabee silicon. I've not yet taken time to ask the right questions about these things, though, so I'm simply speculating. The press release says: "The Intel MIC architecture is derived from several Intel projects, including 'Larrabee' and such Intel Labs research projects as the Single-chip Cloud Computer." Which is clear as mud!

Interestingly enough, although this architecture, now dubbed Many Integrated Core (MIC), may not compete in the discrete GPU space as once expected, it will face off rather directly in the HPC market against Nvidia's line of Tesla products based on the Fermi architecture. Already, Intel is touting the advantages of x86 compatibility and cross-pollination with its Xeon processor ecosystem and development tools. Whether Intel can succeed at solving other data-parallel computing problems without first building a chip capable of processing real-time graphics efficiently is an intriguing, and potentially vexing, question.

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