Count on Intel
In addition, OEMs are increasingly bringing GPUs into their HPC systems. At the SC show, Cray, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and SGI all showcased systems running Tesla GPUs, while Appro demonstrated its HyperPower GPU performance clusters, which feature both Nvidia Tesla GPUs and Intel's Xeon CPUs. Brookwood said Intel's upcoming Nehalem EX processor will be a great product, but questioned whether it could substitute for GPUs in these HPC workloads.It's this growing demand for GPGPU capabilities and the new applications that will grow up around them that will have Intel continue to work on the foundation of Larrabee, the analysts said. "They're very persistent, and they will persevere until they get it right," Brookwood said. Intel is also patient, Spooner said. "Intel's taking a very long view with the new business segments it's targeting, including graphics, phones [and] consumer electronics," he said. "I'm sure the goal is to deliver hardware over time." In the meantime, Intel will be able to take what it's learned from Larrabee, including the development of many-core chips, and apply it elsewhere. Indeed, Intel researchers announced Dec. 2 a prototype of a 48-core CPU that they call a "single-chip cloud computer" with 10 to 20 times the computing power of a current Core processor. The move to make Larrabee a development platform also makes sense, the analysts said. "Without the programmers, nothing of this kind would be worth anything," Brookwood said. "You need to give programmers a platform they can explore." Given the fits and starts of Larrabee's history, it made sense for Intel to dump it and start over, he said. "Intel deserves a lot of credit for knowing when to bite that bullet and not keep beating a dead horse," Brookwood said.
"When you look at the raw floating-point power of the Nehalem EX versus the raw floating-point power of ATI ... it's no contest," he said. "These GPUs have been honed over many generations to crank out floating-point performance, and they just have gigaflops and teraflops to spare when compared with what Nehalem EX can provide. And that's not a slam at Nehalem EX."