11:57 PM

Intel Reveals its Graphics Technology: Larrabee

Intel [a SVW sponsor] has responded to Advanced Micro Devices acquisition of graphics chip giant ATI Technologies. At the coming SIGGRAPH 2008 industry conference Intel is revealing details of its "Larrabee" visual architecture, which describes its graphics technology.

Here is Intel's account of what it will discuss at the show:

Details unveiled in the SIGGRAPH paper include a new approach to the software rendering 3-D pipeline, a many-core (many processor engines in a product) programming model and performance analysis for several applications.

The first product based on Larrabee will target the personal computer graphics market and is expected in 2009 or 2010. Larrabee will be the industry’s first many-core x86 Intel architecture, meaning it will be based on an array of many processors.

There is a lot of detailed info here Monday morning: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1360612.1360617

Foremski's Take:

AMD's acquisition of graphics chip leader ATI Technologies forced Intel to come up with a response. In the mean time, the acquisition has been troublesome for AMD. The valuation of the deal had to be drastically reset leading to a massive $1.6 billion write off for AMD.

Also, the management time required to integrate ATI has not helped AMD capitalize on its lead in low-power server microprocessors.

Intel [INTC] hasn't had to deal with such a distraction [think GOOG versus YHOO if MSFT had succeeded...] it has had time to craft its response, which is Larrabee.

An additional advantage for Intel is that it can include Larrabee in its chip sets as an easily integrated technology from scratch. AMD has to work to integrate ATI's architecture with its process technology.

Also, AMD has to juggle its production through its own chip fabs versus fabless production models. One of the advantages of the ATI acquisition is that AMD can learn from ATI how to better use foundries to improve its history of production problems.

However, AMD's German based chip fabs make it difficult for the company to switch to foundries because of the commitments it made in return for tax and other government support. Chip fabs, unless they are run at 95 percent plus capacity are a quick way to lose lots of money. As the chip fabs get larger, there are fewer chip companies that have the volumes required to keep chip fab production lines full.

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Jon Peddie, a leading analyst on graphics talks about Larrabee:

Why not Larrabee? :: JPR Staff blogs

When is a GPU not a GPU?

One final note. GPUs. Larrabee is not a GPU in the sense an ATI, Nvidia, or S3 chip is a GPU. It is gang of X86 cores that can do graphics processing, so it is a GCPU – graphics capable processing unit, as are ATI, Nvidia, and S3’s chips.