Though the deal may be a good one for Intel and Cray, some analysts don’t think all the players in the HPC ecosystem will be happy about it.
“This is pretty bad news for AMD,” said David Kanter of Real World Technologies.
Bolding, however, was adamant that the “strong partnership” with Intel would not affect Cray’s relationship with either AMD or Nvidia, both of whose chips it uses in its current and upcoming systems.
Cray is currently building out its Titan supercomputer based on the Cray X6 at Oakridge, which uses both AMD and Nvidia chips, while its Blue Waters system is based on the Cray Xe6 and is also largely dependent on AMD processors.
“It may not impact the relationship, but the systems AMD had were largely fabric driven, so if the fabric is now an Intel fabric, it’s not good news [for AMD],” said Kanter, adding that it was a “big converged interconnect play” by Intel.
An Intel spokesman admitted that the deal gave the firm access not only to interconnect intellectual property (IP) but also to “a world class team of Cray HPC interconnect veterans,” including those responsible for developing the much lauded Gemini interconnect.
Intel has set itself a target of hitting ExaFLOP/s performance by 2018, which would require a scalable system fabric. “The technology and team from Cray provides important intellectual property and resources for this development,” said the spokesman.
“This deal does not affect our current Infiniband product plans and at this moment we don’t disclose future product plans related to acquired assets,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cray is currently working on “Cascade” – its first supercomputer based on next-generation Intel Xeon processors.
Bolding said Cray would also continue to work with Intel on how to differentiate on any future interconnects that might be developed, while it would switch its own focus to other areas, like software.
“If interconnects are being incorporated into processors, we want to look at other areas where we can differentiate,” Bolding said, noting that software now made up 60 percent of the firm’s investment.
“We want to invest in long term differentiation and technology that can help us both in the short term and past the 2016 timeframe, because we want to continue to build the largest, most scalable supercomputers in the world. This doesn’t change that goal,” Bolding said.
In terms of software differentiation, Cray says it has its compiler team working on accelerator based compilers, as well as other programming tools to aid acceleration. “We’re using those with Nvidia today but we anticipate using them with other accelerators in the future,” Bolding added.