Things That Could Go Wrong

I had to write this section because as strong as Intel has been executing these past couple of years, we must keep in mind that in the GPU market, Intel isn't only the underdog, it's going up against the undefeated. NVIDIA, the company that walked into 3dfx's house and walked away with its IP, the company who could be out engineered and outperformed by ATI for an entire year and still emerge as dominant. This is Intel's competition, the most Intel-like of all of the manufacturers in the business, and a highly efficient one at that.

Intel may benefit from the use of its advanced manufacturing fabs in making Larrabee, but it is also burdened by them. NVIDIA has been building GPUs, some quite large, without ever investing a dime in building its own manufacturing facility. There's much that could go wrong with Larrabee, the short list follows:

Manufacturing, Design and Yield

Before we get to any of the GPU-specific concerns about Larrabee, there's always the basics when making any chip. There's always the chance that it could be flawed, it might not reach the right clock speeds, deliver the right performance and perhaps not yield well enough. Larrabee has a good chance of being Intel's largest die produced in desktop-like volumes, while Intel is good at manufacturing we can't rule these out as concerns.

Performance

As interesting as Larrabee sounds, it's not going to arrive for another year at least. NVIDIA should have even higher performing parts out by then, making GT200 look feebile by comparison. If Intel can't deliver a real advantage over the best from NVIDIA and AMD, Larrabee won't get very far as little more than a neat architecture.

Drivers and Developer Relations

Intel's driver team now is hardly its strongpoint. On the integrated graphics side we continue to have tons of issues, even as we're testing the new G45 platform we're still bumping into many driver related issues and are hearing, even from within Intel, that the IGP driver team leaves much to be desired. Remember that NVIDIA as a company is made up of mostly software engineers - drivers are paramount to making a GPU successful, and Intel hasn't proved itself.

I asked Intel who was working on the Larrabee drivers, thankfully the current driver team is hard at work on the current IGP platforms and not on Larrabee. Intel has a number of its own software engineers working on Larrabee's drivers, as well as a large team that came over from 3DLabs. It's too early to say whether or not this is a good thing, nor do we have any idea of what Intel's capabilities are from a regression testing standpoint, but architecture or not, drivers can easily decide the winner in the GPU race.

Developer relations are also very important. Remember the NVIDIA/Assassin's Creed/DirectX 10.1 fiasco? NVIDIA's co-marketing campaign with nearly all of the top developers is an incredibly strong force. While Intel has the clout to be able to talk to game developers, we're bound to see the clash of two impossibly strong forces here.

The Future of Larrabee: The Many Core Era and Launch Questions Final Words
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  • The Preacher - Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - link

    Man, you must have OC'ed yourself way too high! :D Reply
  • iop3u2 - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    First of all it's called d3d not directx.

    Secondly you seem to imply that direct3d/opengl will cease to exist at some point if larrabee succeeds. I thinks you don't quite get what they are. They are APIs. Larrabee won't make programming APIless. Are you serious anand or what?
    Reply
  • The Preacher - Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - link

    It could make programming D3D/OpenGL-less for programs/PCs that exploit Larrabee. And if the share of such programs/PCs increases, the share of competing solutions logically decreases and might eventually vanish (although not anytime soon). Reply
  • iop3u2 - Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - link

    Just because you can for example write a c program without the c lib it doesn't mean that people follow that road. It's all about what programmers will choose to do.

    Also, even if they do vanish there will still be a need for an api. So there will either be a new api or they won't vanish. Both situations make no difference whatsoever to the fact that larrabee will always need api implementations.
    Reply
  • ZootyGray - Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - link

    right - and I will put hotels on boardwalk and park place :)

    I used to own an 815chipset - it was like version 14 or whatever so it didn't suk as bad as some of the earlier ones - but it did blow up - I think pixelated FarCry and Doom3 really killed it. But o sure, the software fixes and bubblegum patches made it good, for a while. I really do think I am going to wait for this just so I can watch the lineups of returns - or read the funny forums posts of sheep seeking help - baaaahaha :) The best part is that it doesn't exist - delay, postpone - kinda like the 64bit chip also. Maybe later, maybe. But the ads invade the livingroom.
    Make sure you keep yer getouttajailfree card - receipt.
    Ummm let's see: I think I will buy this one!

    Reality is that 4870x2 is on deck. Not 'rumour and sigh'. I just know there will be a 16page article on that - not!
    Reply
  • Pok3R - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Larrabee means good news for consumers, and definitely bad news for nvidia. Maybe the worst in decades...with AMD and Ati having enough human resources now to face it, and Nvidia having nothing but bad policies and falling stocks despite good $elling numbers...

    The future, today, is definitely Intel vs AMD/Ati.
    Reply
  • initialised - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    a miniature render farm (you know like they use to make films like Hulk and WALL-E) on a chip. Lets hope AMD and nVidia can keep up. Reply
  • ZootyGray - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Really? Guess again. There is NOT anything to keep up to.

    I do not accept that the grafx loser in the industry is going to simply become numero uno overnight.

    You really think that nvidia and ati have been sleeping for decades?

    Supporting the destruction of ntel's only competitors leaves us at the mercy of a group that's already been busted for monop and antitrst.

    Well written article? Of course, but I think it's like you are all fished in on many fronts. Nothing is really known except spin. This is beachfront property in the desert.

    There's nothing to watch except what we usually watch - released hardware benchmarks.

    I tell you AMD is going to be the cpu of choice in a few months when the truth about the bias in the benchies is revealed. And try - try real hard - to imagine ati+amd creating the ultimate cpu+gpu powerhouse. ntel needs this hype because I am not the only one with vision here. they are rich and scared, for now.

    but such talk seems to be frowned upon - so let's all cheer for the best grafx manufacturer - ntel = kkaakk! sorry to offend, so many of you just might be lost in the paid mob. so just watch and you will see for yourself- no need to believe me. I really know almost nothing - but I am free to see for myself. sorry to offend - I just can't cosign bs. but that's just me and a very few other posters here who have also been criticized. watch and see for yourself. watch...
    Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    I'd have to agree with the skeptics here. While the article is well written and informative (What AnandTech articles aren't?) it's purely speculation that Intel can get all of the variables right. How does a company that hasn't made a competitive GPU since the days of the 486 suddenly jump to Nvidia and ATI GPU type levels on their first try, never mind surpassing them. It's absolutely absurd to think that these chips are going to replace GPU's in terms of performance. I believe Larrabee will kick the shit out of Intel's own IGP but then again that's not much of a feat.

    Again I have to agree with previous posters that Intel just isn't that innovative. Even as I speak their are many lawsuits pending against Intel, most of them having to do with accusations of stolen IP that were used to design the Core2Duo. Antitrust suits aside, it's clear that Intel is similar to MS in that they just bully, bribe or outright steal to get ahead then pay whatever fines are levied because in the end they can never fine them enough to not make it worthwhile for Intel or MS to break the law.

    The 65nm Core2Duo is amazing. The 45nm E8400 I just bought is even more so. However the more I think about Intel's past failures as well as how they operate as a company the more far fetched this whole thing becomes.

    IMO they should have tried to compete in the dedicated GPU market before trying something like this. From a purely marketing standpoint Intel and graphics just don't go together. To come in to a new field in which they are unproven (I would bet Intel executives believe that building IGP's have somehow given them experience) and make outrageous claims such as the GPU is dead and Intel will now be the leader, is absurd.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - link

    I think a lot of you are missing the point that we fully understand this is all on paper and what remains to be seen is how it actually pans out in practice. Without the necessary drivers to run DirectX and OpenGL at high performance, this will fail. How many times was that mentioned? At least two or three.

    Now, the other thing to consider is that in terms of complexity, a modern Core 2 core is far more complex to design than any of the GPUs out there. You have all sorts of general functions that need to be coded. A GPU core these days consists of a relatively simple core that you then repeat 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. times. Intel is doing exactly that with Larrabee. They went back to a simple x86 core and tacked on some serious vector processing power. Sounds a lot like NVIDIA's SP or ATI's SPU really.

    Fundamentally, they have what is necessary to make this work, and all that remains is to see if they can pull off the software side. That's a big IF, but then Intel is a big company. We have reached the point where GPUs and CPUs are merging - CUDA and GPGPU aim to do just that in some ways - so for Intel to start at the CPU side and move towards a GPU is no less valid an approach than NVIDIA/ATI starting at GPUs and moving towards general purpose CPUs.
    Reply

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