Intel Clarifies Graphics Plans, Hints at HPC Project

Intel spokesperson Bill Kircos says the chip giant will not release a discrete graphics chip any time soon, putting an end to the project code-named Larrabee. However, Kircos says Intel will continue enhancing the graphics capabilities of its CPUs, and Intel officials at the International Supercomputing show will outline a high-performance computing effort created from the work with Larrabee and many-core processors.

Intel will continue with its efforts to enhance the graphics capabilities of its CPUs, but the chip maker will not release a "Larrabee"-like discrete graphics processor any time soon.

In a Technology@Intel blog post May 25, Intel spokesperson Bill Kircos said the company will increase spending and manpower in the area of graphics, and hinted at a new effort born out of the Larrabee program and Intel's efforts in many-core CPU technologies that will focus 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 in December 2009, referring to development issues involving 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 any other company to bring a new graphics technology to market, and that the end of Larrabee wasn't going to be the end of Intel's graphics efforts.

Both Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, with its ATI unit, are pushing their GPU products for more general-purpose computing workloads, particularly in the HPC 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 Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs in the same system, making it the first top-tier OEM to sell such a hybrid system.

Intel officials have said that their CPUs, with integrated graphics technology, can handle the bulk of consumer and corporate graphics needs in clients and servers. In his blog, Kircos reiterated that point.

"Our top priority continues to be ... delivering an outstanding processor that addresses everyday, 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 [high-definition] 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.

Throughout the blog entry, Kircos didn'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, vice president of the Intel architecture group and general manager of its data center unit, will provide an update of the effort at the International Supercomputing show in Hamburg, held May 30 to June 3.