Remember Intel's Larrabee discrete graphics processor? It's been shelved, at least for graphics cards, but the architecture will live on in a new class of Many Integrated Core (MIC) processors designed for the high-performance computing (HPC) market. These chips will still face off against Nvidia GPUs, but not GeForces—instead, the MIC line will target territory currently occupied by Nvidia's Tesla products.
With traditional microprocessors, Intel has followed a tick-tock development approach that alternates between deploying new architectures and adopting finer fabrication technology. This strategy appears to be successful one. The latest tock is coming next month with Sandy Bridge, which will debut a new architecture on the 32-nano fabrication process introduced by this year's Core 2010 CPUs. However, Intel won't pursue a similar approach with its MIC chips, which the company says won't need to be updated as frequently as its desktop CPUs.
In an interview with HPCwire, Rajeeb Hazra, general manager of Intel's HPC group, says he expects MIC products to be refreshed every 18-24 months. That cycle tracks more closely with the typical release schedule of new graphics architectures produced by AMD and Nvidia. According to Hazra, each new generation of MIC products could "encapsulate more significant architectural changes," as well.
Intel's first MIC offering will reportedly be Knights Corner, a 50-core design expected to arrive in 2012. The chip is slated to use 22-nano fabrication technology, which is the next node on Intel's roadmap. Thanks to X-bit labs for the tip.