The International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg is winding down, and the information overload that generally accompanies such highly specialised events will be heavy on attendees' minds.
The first takeaway from the show is that supercomputing is spreading down through industry sectors. At one time the only operations capable of running supercomputers were Cold War industries on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and the occasional well-funded research institute.
But, as the costs of supercomputing have fallen, more and more companies are using the machines for more mundane financial modelling or engineering design. It's now possible to buy a desktop supercomputer from Cray for just $25,000 (£17,000), a machine that 10 years ago would have been almost unaffordable.
This widening of the market has seen companies gearing up to meet demand, and this week saw a number of moves in this direction. Intel made a lot of noise on the hardware side about how it sees the development of chips for supercomputing.
The company may have cancelled Larrabee, or "redefined" it as Intel put it, but it's still using the hardware developed for the graphics market by building it into high performance computing (HPC) chips.
Intel used the conference to announce that it will use Larrabee technology in its next generation of HPC chips. The first such processor, codenamed Knight's Ferry, will run 32 cores at 32nm, with the goal to get up to 50 cores before long. Intel calls the new chips using the Larrabee features Many Integrated Core (MIC) processors.
"Intel's Xeon processors, and now our new MIC architecture products, will further push the boundaries of science and discovery as Intel accelerates solutions to some of humanity's most challenging problems," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.
AMD has been much quieter about its plans. While the company is holding its own in the HPC sphere, its success is still built around the Opteron family, which some feel is looking a bit long in the tooth. Similarly, we didn't hear much about the Cell processor, but that may change shortly.
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