Intel Shelves Larrabee as a GPU Project

Intel on Friday announced it has shelved plans to continue development of its ‘Larrabee‘ graphics processor as originally planned, but the technology will live on under other products and designs.

Larrabee has been a multi-year, expensive project for Intel (NASDAQ: INTC). Rumors have swirled that it was a white elephant, not living up to promises. Some bloggers even insinuated that the delays damaged long-time Intel executive Pat Gelsinger’s image within the company so badly he was practically forced into the EMC job he took last September.

Intel has denied all of these claims and said all along that Larrabee was on schedule and meeting internal goals. At last month’s SC09 show, CTO Justin Rattner showed Larrabee running with one teraFLOP of supercomputing performance.

But it appears Larrabee just wasn’t cutting it after all. “Larrabee silicon and software development are behind where we hoped to be at this point in the project,” Intel spokesperson Nick Knupffer told

“As a result, our first Larrabee product will not be launched as a stand-alone, discrete graphics product,” he added. “Rather it will be used as a software development platform for internal and external use.”

A sharp change in direction?

The promise of an SDK for building Larrabee apps is new and comes with Intel making what seems to be a sharp change in direction. Instead of going after the GPU card market that has made nVidia and ATI so much money, Intel instead appears to be repositioning Larrabee as a HPC co-processor. The SDK will be used to write apps for whatever processor Intel makes from the Larrabee technology.

Intel is not giving up on graphics at all. It still intends to discuss plans for discrete graphics products some time in 2010 and its Westmere products, which combine a GPU and CPU on the same die, are on schedule.

Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, said Intel is not out of this by any means. “I believe they will definitely come back. Intel’s commitment has not slackened. The part is being repositioned as a HPC co-processor where I think it will do very well,” he told

“They learned a whole lot from this. A whole lot. They are not going to throw that investment or knowledge away. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them come back in a few years with a graphics part. Intel could decide to follow the high performance trail like AMD is doing with Fusion,” he added.

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