decade later, the company had hoped to make a discrete GPU comeback
with Larrabee, a 45nm 32-core GPU which would use x86
instructions. However, the program has been chronically postponed
even as advanced new GPU designs from ATI and NVIDIA have come on the
Intel has now decided to cancel the consumer
GPU version of Larrabee which was supposed to have come
out next year. It was supposed to feature two teraFLOPS of
performance, but ATI broke that barrier earlier this year. A
teraFLOPs is 1 trillion FLoating point Operations Per Second, and is
an indicator of CPU and GPU performance.
division launched the 40nm
Radeon HD 5870 with 2.72 teraFLOPS just before Intel showed off a
prototype of Larrabee at the Intel Developer Forum in
September. The recent launch of the Radeon
HD 5970 with over 5 teraFLOPS was the final nail in the coffin.
Intel decided that Larrabee just wouldn't be able to compete
on price or performance.
"Larrabee silicon and
software development are behind where we hoped to be at this point in
the project," stated Intel in a email to DailyTech.
a result, our first Larrabee product will not be launched as a
standalone discrete graphics product, but rather be used as a
software development platform for internal and external use".
"While we are disappointed that the product is not yet
where we expected, we remain committed to delivering world-class
many-core graphics products to our customers. Additional plans for
discrete graphics products will be discussed some time in 2010,"
the statement concluded.
The initial software development
platform will be launched next year. The company had previously
stated that Larrabee was to be just the first of several
Larrabee was supposed to combine the raw
parallel throughput of a GPU with the general programming ability of a CPU.
Intel often highlighted rendering features that are difficult to
achieve on GPUs like real-time raytracing and order-independent
transparency. Larrabee would enable features like that through
its tile-based rendering approach.
Born out of Intel's
Initiative, Larrabee's hardware is based on the Pentium
P54C CPU. It contains vector-processing units to enhance the
performance of graphics and video applications. The cores featured
short instructional pipelines, with support for Hyper-Threading four
execution threads per core, which has its own register set to access
memory. A short instructional pipeline allows fast access to L1
cache. All cores on Larrabee share access to a partitioned L2
cache, while cache coherency across all cores would maintain data
consistency. Communication between all of the Larrabee cores
is through a 1024-bit bidirectional ring bus.
Intel recognized the
importance of software and drivers to Larrabee's success,
leading to the creating of the Intel
Visual Computing Institute at Saarland University in Saarbrücken,
Germany. The lab conducts basic and applied research in visual and
The Larrabee roadmap showed a
future 48-core version built on a 32nm process, and hinted at more
powerful versions built using Intel's 22nm
SOC process in 2012. While we may or may not see products based
on Larrabee, the cancellation of consumer Larrabee GPUs
means that Intel will be able to deploy more resources on improving
the 32nm integrated graphics which will be found in next year's
chips. Nevertheless, this whole mess is an embarrassment for
Intel, and a major retreat in their ongoing saga with AMD and NVIDIA.