Intel has busted into Cray, securing a deal with the high performance computing specialist to slot Xeon processors in future systems. Cray's latest line of hardware remains centered around AMD's Opteron processors. But now Intel will join the fold, starting in the 2010ish time frame when Cray releases a new line of hardware …
Good work on Intel's part, but I do worry that they intend to simply drive AMD out of business. Intel gets away with things that would make a Microsoft executive blush, but somehow they never got more than a slap on the hand.
Surely the dominant chip in HPC is...
Or is IA64 more like Dontwantum these days? I mean Cray is so niche that if Intel can't even persuade Cray that IA64 has a rewarding future, why should anyone else be interested (unless, like the unfortunate HP-UX and OpenVMS customers, they're being held hostage).
Cray is in deep &#$# with DARPA
The switch to Intel will not save Cray from the contract requirements they signed with DARPA
I just saw a list of American companies with largest deficits in Q1/2008. AMD was fourth on that list. Their cash burn-rate is horrendous. And since brand new finally bugfree Phenoms trails Intel Cores in performance, AMD has to under-price their high end products as well. Same story with gfx compared to Nvidia though. This is not looking good.
If AMD goes bankrupt I hope someone with deep pockets like IBM buys them. We would never had so cheap products without the cut-throat competition. If AMD where performance kings Phenoms would have costs at least three times as much.
A niche player like Cray probably uses 100K procs/year. Volume and margin next to nothing. AMD in their current state can't afford giveaways like this. Cray hardly makes any money themselves, so they just use whatever they get cheapest.
In addition to the x86 based systems, Cray still pursues their in-house Threadstorm processor architecture (basically the Tera MTA on a chip). They used to also have their own custom vector architectures - the last being the X1 - which was essentially a MIPS with 8 vector piplelines. Cutting back to one additional architecture would seem very sane.
The ubiquity of x86 based clusters as supercomputers is still with us. Although the systems are predictably swinging towards greater emphasis (and cost proportion) on interconnection technology. Whilst interconnection remains the bottleneck worrying about very high end processor architectures makes little sense - the system needs to remain balanced. The x86 remains a flawed architecture for HPC purposes, but it is hard to argue with the price performance.
It is interesting to note that where the Itanium remains successful is in the very high performance SMP machines - the SGI Altix. Using an x86 in such a beast would be a waste. But if your task partitions well and runs OK on a big cluster, then x86 it will be.
Of course Cray cannot live up to their promises, but this is familiar ground for them and I am sure they can reach an agreement with the gov when the time comes. When this much money is at stake, failure looks bad. And darpa does not want to look bad.
The issue for Cray is whether they can turn this "opportunity" into a real product, or if it will just be something for their engineers to uselessly beaver at for a few years. So far it has been the latter.
All of Cray's products since 2000, except the xt3, have more or less been disasters. Cray management is probably looking for a way to give its customer the parallelism it wants without taking on more engineering risk, which is what is killing them. Intel's larabee, or whatever its called, is attractive.
There is the follow on to the X1, funnily enough, called the X2 which is also vector system. This blade sits in the XT5h series system. Cray also has the XT4, XT5 (AMD64 based) and XRC blades (FPGA) as well as the seperate XMT (Threadstorm) product. While the X1 ran an Irix derived kernel, the processor was of the NV-1 architecture (custom) and I would hardly class it as a glorified MIPS processor with vector pipes.
Should never have got rid of the Alpha chip
AMD should be grateful...
...that Intel is not still being run by Andy Grove. They would probably have been dead for a number of years now, if that had been the case.
It could be worse, still: Probably the only businessman in the IT business who's more ruthless than Grove is Jack Tramiel. He makes Bill Gates look like a pussycat by comparison.
@ Don Mitchell
In fairness to Intel, they don't seem to be driving AMD out of business through dodgy business practices. Intel are simply making better products with better VFM. There's also no signs that they're deliberately under-charging the way Rupert Murdoch did when threatened by On-Digital.
I wouldn't rule AMD out yet though. 3 years ago it was the other way around. And ATI/AMD GPUs seem to be gaining on nVidia. I think it's fair to say that without AMD, you would still see the product development from Intel, but not at the prices that they currently have.
To lose AMD from the market would turn it into a one-horse race again, with prices that reflected this. Just look at the products where Intel are unchallenged (the Extreme range), they can charge the world for these and are doing so.
Supercomputer - finally a computer that runs Vista well
I think they are planning for people who are forced to use Vista so they are trying to come up with a platform that can handle the rediculous demands of Vista.