MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--While graphics processors, or GPUs, are certainly well known in the world of gaming and advanced graphics, the question of whether they can be used to accelerate computation within supercomputers is much more recent.
At the recent Supercomputing 2011 show in Seattle, keynote speaker Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia Corp. said GPU technology was an essential ingredient on the path to reaching exascale computing within a 20MW power envelope, but Intel has strongly disagreed.
Intel Corp. is pushing forward its own version of parallel architecture, in the form of Many Integrated Cores (MIC), which it says will be easier for programmers to use and for the industry to scale.
“We’ve built a very general purpose device, one that’s designed for Parallelism,” said James Reinders, and HPC software specialist at Intel.
Reinders admitted that while people seemed excited at the notion of acclerators being added on to supercomputers, especially GPUs, that wasn’t necessarily the best approach.
Instead, Reinders posited, it may be better to go for already widely used x86 cores which have been designed for data parallelism and which are much more programmable and “even more exciting on the performance side.”
Unlike Nvidia, Reinders said, Intel was not dedicating part of its design or performance to graphics. “When you look at a pure data parallelism workload, we have a huge advantage,” he claimed.
“It’s an x86 device, you can do anything on it programming wise that you can do on any of our programmers,” he added.
While Reinders conceded that 50 cores would not be “a snap to use” for every programmer, and would require something of a learning curve, he did say people were usually “amazed” at how easy it was to pick up.
Thus the question becomes not, how does one make a program scale to 50 cores, but does it need 50 cores to run it in the first place?
Take a look at the video below and let us know your thoughts on Intel’s challenge to GPU acceleration.