Intel has, “at least in the short term,” canceled its plans to bring a discrete GPU (graphics processing unit) to market. The move follows the company's having missed “key product milestones” for a planned product codenamed Larrabee, spokesperson Bill Kircos wrote in a blog entry yesterday.
Intel will increase spending and manpower in the area of graphics, Kircos writes. He further hinted at a new effort born out of the Larrabee program and Intel's efforts in many-core CPU technologies, focusing on the HPC (high-performance computing) and supercomputing spaces.
However, company officials are not making any effort in the short term to revive the Larrabee project itself. Larrabee was a discrete graphics chip due out in early 2010. However, Intel shelved the project last December, referring to development issues with the processor, which the company had been talking about since 2007.
After Intel ditched Larrabee, industry analysts said it would be difficult for Intel or anyone else to bring a new graphics technology to market. But, they added, while Intel may have folded Larrabee, it wasn't going to be the end of the chip maker's graphics efforts.
Both Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, with its ATI unit, are both pushing their GPU products for more general-purpose computing workloads, particularly in the HPC (high-performance computing) space, where more applications can take advantage of the parallel processing capabilities of the graphics chips.
IBM on May 18 unveiled a version of its iDataPlex HPC server that offers both Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs in the same system, the first top-tier OEM to sell such a hybrid system. That move followed the release of a similar product in the form of Appro's Tetra 1326G4 and 1426G4 (below) the same month.
Appro's Tetra includes Nvidia's Fermi GPUs, for a total of more than 1,800 cores
(Click to enlarge)
Intel officials have said that their CPUs, with integrated graphics technologies, can handle the bulk of consumer and corporate graphics needs in both clients and servers. In his blog posting, Kircos reiterated that point.
"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 wrote. "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."
Driving the demand for greater graphics capabilities are the growth of HD video and the "rapid shift to wireless mobile computers that consume less power," he wrote. But, throughout the posting, he doesn't address the gaming space, in which both AMD and Nvidia are active.
The current 2010 Core PC chips include integrated Intel HD Graphics, "a best-in-class solution for the vast majority of how we all use our computers. If you choose our processors, you get a great visual experience for the bulk of what you do. We've even added entirely new features, such as Wireless Display right to your TV," Kircos wrote.
Those graphics capabilities will be enhanced with the upcoming "Sandy Bridge" family of Core processors, due out in early 2011.
In the server space, Kircos spoke briefly about "a business opportunity derived from the Larrabee program and Intel research in many-core chips. This server product line expansion is optimized for a broader range of highly parallel workloads in segments such as high performance computing."
Kirk Skaugen, VP of the Intel architecture group and GM of its data center unit, will provide an update of the effort at the International Supercomputing 2010 show in Germany the week of May 31, Kiros added.
Jeffrey Burt is a writer for our sister publication eWEEK.
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