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Larry Seiler and Stephen Junkins Speak at Intel Larrabee Brief  (Source: News.com)
Intel will begin sampling Larrabee in 2008 with products on market in 2009 or 2010

Today there are three main players in the graphics market producing hardware -- Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA. As the market stands right now, only AMD and NVIDIA manufacture discrete graphics cards with Intel sticking exclusively to on-board graphics that are common on the vast majority of notebook and desktop computers in the low and mid-range market.

Intel is looking to change that and will be bringing its own discrete products to market at some point. The discrete graphics cards from Intel will use the Larrabee architecture and according to eWeek; discrete graphics cards using the Larrabee architecture won’t be available until 2009 or 2010. EWeek does say that Intel will be sampling Larrabee in 2008.

Intel has begun talking about the Larrabee architecture and naturally, it feels that Larrabee is the best architecture out there. What makes Intel so enthused by its architecture is that the Larrabee core is based on the Pentium CPU and uses x86 cores. The use of x86 cores means that programmers and game developers can use the familiar programming languages -- like C and C++ -- that have been in use for a number of years, rather than having to learn a new programming language like NVIDIA's CUDA.

Intel says that its Larrabee is a many-core processor and eWeek reports that it will likely containing ten or more individual x86 processor cores inside the silicon package. Discrete graphics cards using the Larrabee architecture will initially be aimed at the gaming market. That means Intel is directly targeting AMD and NVIDIA with Larrabee.

Intel says Larrabee will support both DirectX and OpenGL APIs and it is encouraging developers to design new and graphic intense applications for the architecture. Larrabee will also bring a new era in parallel computing with developers being able to write applications for it using C and C++ programming languages.

Intel has combined the throughput of a CPU with the parallel programming ability of a GPU. Intel says that Larrabee will also contain vector-processing units to enhance the performance of graphics and video applications. The x86 cores feature short instructional pipelines and can support four execution threads with each core. Each core can also support a register set to help with memory. The short instructional pipeline allows faster access to L1 cache with each core.

Intel says that all cores on Larrabee will share access to a large L2 cache partitioned for each of the cores. The arrangement of the Larrabee architecture allows it to maintain an efficient in-order pipeline, yet allows the processor some benefits of an out-of-order processor to help with parallel applications. Communication between all of the Larrabee cores will be enhanced by using what Intel calls a bidirectional ring network.

Larry Seiler from Intel says, "What the graphics and general data parallel application market needs is an architecture that provides the full programming abilities of a CPU, the full capabilities of a CPU together with the parallelism that is inherent in graphics processors. Larrabee provides [that] and it's a practical solution to the limitations of current graphics processors."

According to News.com, one Intel slide shows that the performance of the Larrabee architecture scales linearly with four cores offering twice the performance of two cores. According to News.com core counts for Larrabee will range from 8 to 48 -- the exact core count for the Larrabee architecture is unknown at this time.



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Hmmm
By voodooboy on 8/4/2008 2:15:31 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe it's just me...but after recently concluding my reading on the Cell processor for class, to me, the Larabee looks like what the Cell should have been. Infact, unlike what's being portrayed by Intel, it seems more like an evolution (and a well thought out/designed one at that!) of the IBM/Tosh/Sony Cell.BE more than anything else. Just that Intel had the x86 IP to build on...which SONY unfortunately didn't have (didn't want to?) and hence the Cell looked like a unique but ugly alien while the Larabee looks more like a regular but potent bombshell.

Where they ARE going to hand the Cell it's butt on a platter would be when it comes to library/SDK support.




RE: Hmmm
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 8/4/2008 3:18:48 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I never did get the idea behind Cell. It has one real general purpose core, but the rest are a bunch of Floating Point units only. If the calculation isnt FP, then the rest of Cell is worthless. Seems lousy since you need to load balance to push what you can do the FP units and anything that cant be structured to go through the general processing unit.

Intel's design seems to be all general purpose units without any specialization involved. This leads to interesting possibilities since you can reprogram the larrabee processing cores to handle any type of calculation. Far superior to CellBE in every way.


RE: Hmmm
By FITCamaro on 8/4/2008 3:46:54 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I laugh at people who consider the Cell to be "multi-core". If the Cell is multi-core than a single Intel "Core" core is multi-core since it has special hardware for performing specific tasks as well.


RE: Hmmm
By voodooboy on 8/4/2008 4:20:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that's very true. But you're missing one point, the Cell was primarily built with a specific purpose; powering the Playstation 3 and crunching what may be thrown at it in such a role. The fact that IBM wanted to use the Cell/B.E as a CPU/co-processor in certain application domains is secondary. The Cell/B.E actually does it's job quite well (many orders of magnitude faster than GP processors for what it's designed to do), reason enough for it to be used in what's currently the world's fastest supercomputer, the Roadrunner.

The Larabee on the otherhand goes in the opposite direction. Intel has taken the P54C's architecture (which is a General Purpose Processor to begin with) and beefed up it's vector computation units and provided other elements so as to better handle data-parallel applications.

Also, although very loose in their classification, one was designed to be a CPU (the Cell) and one a GPU (the Larabee).

The idea behind my previous post was not to draw a one to one corelation between the Cell/B.E and the Larabee; it was just to show how the Larabee, as a whole (not just the x86 units) is an architecture with a similar blueprint to the Cell; multiple processing units connected via a high speed ring bus (EIB in case of the Cell) which manipulate data present in their own local memory (LS in case of the Cell).


RE: Hmmm
By KernD on 8/4/2008 7:00:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think we should see Cell as a processor developed by IBM for Sony, but as an IBM processor that Sony thought would be good for there "super-computer" console.

The whole design of Cell is clearly aimed at accelerating math processing for computers that IBM makes. It adds plenty of math power, one core to keep them busy and a memory controller. It's pretty much like a small chunk of a super computer, all on a chip.


RE: Hmmm
By zpdixon on 8/5/2008 12:12:52 AM , Rating: 2
quote:

Well, I never did get the idea behind Cell. It has one real general purpose core, but the rest are a bunch of Floating Point units only.

Wrong. SPUs have full support for integer and logical operations. How do I know ? I wrote a crypt() implementation for the Cell in SPU assembly...

I am currently writing code for AMD GPUs (in AMD CAL IL) and I can't wait to see Larrabee. Seems like chip designers are finally understanding why having as many core as possible, even if limited in capabilities, is important for some workloads.


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