Just when the GPU war looks like continuing indefinitely as a two horse race, Intel comes along to stir up the market. It’s Larrabee processor is due in 2009/10, and if initial speculation is anything to go by this could change the way GPU’s are used. There’s already been much talk about the use of the parallel processing power of current GPU’s for non-graphical tasks. Physics simulation is an emerging role, and Apple’s next OS, Snow Leopard, will include the ability to easily harness all that GPU power for programmers.
Larrabee is different to GPU’s currently available due to its use of multiple Pentium cores. They’re much improved over the original pentium cores, running a lot faster and incorporating newer technologies. The difference between Larrabee cores and a CPU like the Core 2 Duo is complexity. Larrabee is a simpler design that occupies a much smaller space, making a large number of cores in as small package possible.
Just how much the Larrabee chip can do is still a little fuzzy, and some sites are suggesting it will run applications as well as perform GPU and large number crunching duties. Does this mean current systems using a Core 2 Duo/Quad and Graphics card will be replaced by a Larrabee processor? From Dailytech.com,
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.”
If Larrabee performs as well as suggested this could be the biggest shake-up in system architecture for a long time. Convincing users that putting all your processing into one package is a good idea would be another matter.
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