Monday, August 4, 2008

Intel Larrabee to Support Both DirectX and OpenGL

Intel has been showing presentations on Larrabee for sometime now, but hasn’t openly talked about what instructions it will understand, clock speeds or even intel_logo a hard launch date. For people who do not know, Larrabee is Intel’s attempt to integrate GPU with CPU and create GPGPU (General Purpose GPU) or computing through the use of graphics processing units. Intel today made it clear at Siggraph 2008 that Larrabee will support both DirectX and OpenGL for graphics processing.

Intel already has the highest market share in the GPU world, thanks to integrated graphics processors (IGP) in its chipset's sold with motherboards. But due to the dismal performance over the years of these IGP chipsets, no one ever considers these capable enough for mainstream gaming. Benchmarks have shown time and again that even the most basic discrete graphic cards can perform better than IGPs. With Larrabee, Intel has intentions to bring more computing/graphics power with lesser power requirements.

Larry Seiler, senior engineer in Intel's Visual Computing Group said that, Larrabee's consists of cores derived from Pentium processors and have added multithreading and 64-bit instructions. Each core consists of 256kb L2 cache and the first release of Larrabee will have 8 to 48 cores depending on the market segment. Larrabee also has advanced multi-core capabilities and uses a 1024 bits-wide, bi-directional ring network for fast, low latency communication between the cores.

The programming paradigm doesn’t change with Larrabee because it uses the same x86 instructions used by Intel’s current generation microprocessors. Also with DirectX and OpenGL support inside Larrabee it confirms that current generation games will also work fine. But without any mention of the performance improvement in graphics capabilities over current generation IGPs, I still have doubts whether Intel is actually competing with its own processors or with the GPU vendors like ATI (now AMD) and  NVidia. Larrabee does look solid on paper, but as we know papers do create a lot more hype than they can perform and Intel marketing does know how to play that game.

AMD also has been working on Fusion processor which will integrate AMD CPUs and ATI GPUs into one chip. NVidia on the other hand has create a new programming paradigm with CuDA, which tries to enable normal computer processing to NVidia’s GPU. Whichever company wins this GPGPU battle, we would like to see all of them fight on the same grounds and support existing standards. Today’s Larrabee announcement confirms that both the DirectX and OpenGL standards are followed and will allow current breed of games to run on the Larrabee.

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