Larrabee alive and well

Mass misunderstandings of our time

intlogo Larrabee alive and wellI AM NOT sure why the technical world suddenly all came to the same misunderstanding that Intel’s Larrabee is dead, it most assuredly is not. In fact, if you actually read the not-an-anouncement from Intel yesterday, you will see that it simply does not put the knife in, but rather brings a lot of clarity to the chip’s position.

What am I talking about? Last December, Intel did the right thing and pulled the plug on the consumer version of Larrabee. They explicitly did NOT pull the plug on the whole program, and left the door open to market a version of it for HPC use. As we wrote at the time, “In a statement today, Intel said that the chip will be a development platform and an HPC part, but there will be no retail version, at least not any time soon.”

Today, Intel announced that Larrabee would be released as an HPC part, with an announcement next week, but there would still be no consumer part. In effect, they said EXACTLY what they said in December, but added in more specificity about when it would be released as an HPC part. Basically they confirmed that it was alive, and that it would be out soon in the form that they promised it would be.

Several sites, and several authors that I respect, all lead with headlines about Larrabee being dead. How they got that from Bill Kirkos’ post is beyond me, it is actually significantly more alive than it was before that post. Bullet point three said, “We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term. As we said in December, we missed some key product milestones. Upon further assessment, and as mentioned above, we are focused on processor graphics, and we believe media/HD video and mobile computing are the most important areas to focus on moving forward.”

If you stopped reading there, you might have a pretty grim outlook about Larrabee. If you continued to bullet point 4 however, it read, “We will also continue with ongoing Intel architecture-based graphics and HPC-related R&D and proof of concepts.” Now, if a program was dead, why would they continue to do R&D and proof of concepts? Doesn’t that sound like an ongoing development program to you?

If it does, that is because there is one, and it is going full steam ahead. SemiAccurate laid it all out a few weeks ago, but the short story is that there will be a Larrabee GPU from Intel, currently set for 2012. Ongoing R&D, HPC chips on the market soon, and a solid roadmap for several generations sure doesn’t sound like a dead program, now does it?

However, there were three casualties of last December’s retrenchment. The first was obviously the first generation GPU, AKA Larrabee 1. The second was Intel’s console dreams and the proposed Larrabee based PS4 architecture, something that will cost Medium Blue in the long term. (Note: For what it’s worth, the leading candidate at Sony right now is an internal design that several describe as “Emotion Engine based”. Sony should have waited for Larrabee three…..)

The third casualty was the integrated GPU in Haswell, the Intel chip that succeeds 2012′s Ivy Bridge. Haswell was set to finally take the GenX architecture that debuted in the i965G out behind the shed and put a long overdue bullet in it’s pipelines. Sadly, that was not the case, Haswell and it’s successor, Rockwell, will still use GenX, and it is a potential candidate for the next generation CPUs as well. SIGH.

These casualties aside, the idea that Larrabee is dead is ludicrous. Development is ongoing, and nothing has changed. The only new detail put forth by Intel is that it will be a real product in short order. How anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to events can come to any other conclusion is beyond us.S|A

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 Larrabee alive and well

Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group.